One Man Now Thinks British Champagne Is A Better Bet Than Hedge Funds

Hedge funds about to be less popular investment than German sketch comedy.

While we all know that the "2 and 20s" are having something of a rough go these days, it always helps to grasp a trend by laying hands on a concrete example.

British Champagne

So, we can all thank Bloomberg for this beauty:

For centuries the rolling hills of Sussex in southern England have grown barley for local beer brewers. Now former hedge-fund manager Mark Driver is replacing the grain on his land with grapes in a bid to challenge Champagne.
Driver, one of a number of exiles from London’s financial district who are investing in U.K. sparkling wine, is spending more than 14 million pounds ($20 million) of his own money to transform Rathfinny Estate, which overlooks the English Channel about 70 miles south of London, into the U.K.’s biggest vineyard.

Thats right, Mark Driver would rather bet $20M of his own money on the notion of "English Bubbly" than stay in the hedge fund game. And Driver was a founder of Horseman Capital Management, one of the few funds out there actually doing well these days.

But at least some bankers are looking at the $5 billion champagne market and saying that Driver's maybe not totally crazy to think that the Brits could make a not-gross and probably drinkable sparkling wine...

“I think it’s just the beginning of a significant trend,” said Nicholas Coates, a former banker at ING Barings and Royal Bank of Scotland who co-founded winemaker Coates & Seely. “It’s logical to assume more and more of Champagne’s market share in the U.K. will be eaten into.”

And as for wine experts...

“The sparkling wine I’ve tasted from England is not at all exceptional for the price,” said Juan Sanchez, who manages retail shop La Derniere Goutte in Paris and doesn’t stock British bubblies. “If French customers ask us for English sparkling wine, it’s going to be more out of curiosity than anything else.”

But, hey, still better than hedge funds.

Hedge-Fund Exile Trades Graphs for Grapes to Challenge Champagne [Bloomberg]