French winemakers seeking investors at €1,000 a pop online

French winemakers will let you be a new investor for €1,000. Bordeaux-based entrepreneur, Maxime Debure, says producers in his famous wine-making region need money and are raising it online via small private investments.

The 38-year-old oenologist quit a job running two Bordelais chateaus to create a crowd-funding website, called Wine-Funding, which lets anyone buy a stake in wine domains that are just starting, being renovated, or expanding.

While €1,000 would normally buy you a few bottles of fine wine from some of France’s best-known regions, like Bordeaux, it won’t get you a seat at the shareholder table of its most renowned chateaus.

Mr Debure’s website provides access to smaller producers: The biggest fundraiser is for €1m to renovate a 42-acre property that makes Lussac-Saint-Emilion red.

“Small- and medium-sized wine producers are under-funded, in an industry that requires heavy investments,” Mr Debure said.

“Wine needs financing to keep facilities modern and to bulk up exports. Crowd-funding can fix that, as well as reconnect producers with wine aficionados,” he said.

Mr Debure’s platform opened for pledges last month and is planning to accept projects from other countries, including Italy and South Africa.

While it is focused on investors, it also lets consumers lend winemakers smaller amounts, to be reimbursed later in bottles of the finished product, as part of a bond-like product.

The business follows in the footsteps of UK-based Naked-Wines. The customer-funded wine site, which had sales of £100m (€127m) in the last fiscal year, ending in March, was taken over by Majestic Wine last year for £70m.

France is the world’s second-biggest wine producer in volume, after it fell behind Italy last year, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, followed by Spain, the US, and Argentina.

Investing in small- and medium-sized enterprises offers a 50% tax deduction to people with net taxable assets over €1.3m in France. The deadline to declare asset wealth is mid-June.

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