What made you move to France?
A desire for a complete change of life led us to Gascony. Having had enough of the hustle and bustle of life in the UK, we were anxious for a change of pace and better quality of life. We moved here on 13 February 2004.
Which part of France do you live in?
We live in the Gers, SW France, (dept 32). The countryside is beautiful, we have views across the hills towards the Pyrenees. The winters are hard; often with snow, the Spring is gentle (on the whole), Summer is hot and dry.
Do you have children, if so how easy was it for them to adjust to a French school?
One of our sons (14 at the time we moved here), decided to stay in England and still lives there. Our youngest son was 3 and a half when we arrived and went straight to the local village school, full-time. He has adapted extremely well but misses his family in England.
Learn French. If you are buying a business, carefully calculate the amount of working capital you will need, then double it. Do all the research you can, then do some more.What is your age?
I am 46, my husband is 43.
Where were you born?
I was born in Nantwich, Cheshire. My husband was born in Hackney, London.
Do you work, if so what do you do and how difficult was it to find work or start a business in France?
On 1st March 2004 we purchased a 38 hectare vineyard and became winemakers. We had no previous experiences of winemaking or of agriculture for that matter, so had a very steep learning curve to climb. We are still climbing and learning!
What was the worst mistake you made when buying in France?
Buying with our hearts and not our heads! The former owner of our domaine is an absolute nut-case. We completely ignored all the signs of his foul temper and irrational character. The signs were clear throughout the months we spent negotiating the purchase of the vineyard but we were too wrapped up in our dream to take any notice.
Your best tip for people considering moving to France?
Learn French. If you are buying a business, carefully calculate the amount of working capital you will need, then double it. Do all the research you can, then do some more.
Did you find it hard to integrate or adjust to your new life in France and do you have any tips to help others?
It has been very difficult to integrate here - the Gascons are a race apart.... We are generally seen as competitors so no-one wants to help. Having said that, this is our dream and we battle through the bad times.
What's the best thing about living in France?
We've had many successes - being selected for Guide Hachette, a fantastic review of our white wine by a well-respected wine journalist are just a couple of examples. We are able to spend more time together as a family and this is very important to us.
And the worst?
The many thousands of problems we've experienced in running the vineyard. We are in a court battle with the former owner which has been running for over 3 years - we had never imagined this would happen. It is also very difficult to find customers for Cotes de Gascogne wine - we are a small independent producer without the marketing resources of the big guys so we are continually fire-fighting and work more hours that we should.
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Karen and Nicholas moved to Gascony in Southwest France with their children in 2004, after falling in love with a 38 hectare vineyard they became winemakers. Their wines are now...