No $10 Million Check Needed for Argentine Vineyards

At the southern end of Argentina’s Uco Valley in the foothills of the Andes, Jose Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier is helping make investors’ dreams of producing wine from their own vineyards come true.

An investment banker at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) (GS) and Banco Santander SA (SAN) before leaving the world of finance in 2006, Ortega is selling 140 hectares of land planted with malbec and other varietals for $150,000 per hectare.

More importantly, he promises to do all the work in caring for them. Ortega is counting on the allure of vines that produced his 93-point Alfa Crux Blend (2003) and 94-point O. Fournier Syrah (2002) to distinguish him from other sellers of personal lots in Mendoza province, the hub of the country’s wine industry.

“The Uco Valley is producing not just the best wines in Argentina but some of the best in the world,” said Daniel Pita, a hedge fund lawyer from Sao Paulo who bought into the Ortega project without ever having visited Mendoza. “If you look at other regions that are famous for good wine, like Bordeaux and Napa, you can’t even think about investing there.”

Argentina’s personal vineyard market is expanding after pioneers at Vines of Mendoza started marketing parcels to international investors in 2006. They have since sold 106 plots that produce 240 unique wines.

Ortega’s program is the first by an established Argentine winery to admit “partners,” as he refers to clients who buy property surrounding his namesake bodega 90 minutes south of Mendoza city, the provincial capital.

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