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Dragon's Duncan in a vintage investment with Devon wine maker

By This is Devon  |  Posted: July 15, 2010

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A DEVON vintner has said that Duncan Bannatyne can expect to get "grapes, not money" after viewers watched the millionaire businessman invest £60,000 in his venture on Dragon's Den last night.

Former geological consultant Geoff Bowen said that his TV trial by Dragon had been one of the most gruelling experiences of his life.

"I thought it would be fine," he said, "but they suck the energy out of you. But it was very good from a business point of view — they'd researched my background in depth."

Entrepreneur Bannatyne was impressed by Mr Bowen's pitch and came up with the full sum he was asking for, in return for a 40 per cent stake.

"I am very pleased to have Duncan's involvement," Mr Bowen said. "But I've told him that he may not get much richer as a result."

Mr Bowen, who established his Topsham vineyard and tasting cellar, Pebblebed, in 2000, was looking for a Dragon to help finance the acquisition of five acres of new land.

He aims to add an additional arm to his existing business; making it pay by attracting further investors to buy vines on the site, in return for wine.

"I was looking for £60,000 in return for 20 per cent of the new business," Mr Bowen said. "Duncan understood what I was offering and made a very early offer of the full amount in return for 40 per cent.

"I think he understands that when you have enough food to put on the table for your family you look for things in life that you enjoy.

"There are lots of easier jobs you can do to make money."

Mr Bowen, who gave the Dragons a taster of his business in the form of personalised bottle of Pebblebed's sparkling rosé, initially established his business by persuading 20 local families to invest in vines on half an acre of land, in return for around 100 bottles of wine a year — and the occasional hand with the harvest.

Since then, the business has grown to encompass 22 acres of grapevines.

Mr Bowen said the new enterprise would be a standalone company from his existing business.

As with Pebblebed, investors who buy into the new vineyard will get bottles of wine in return for their money; with the company keeping a 50 per cent share of the annual grape harvest.

Mr Bowen said Mr Bannatyne would have the opportunity to stock recently newly-acquired Shepton Mallet hotel Charlton House and his upmarket health clubs with their own-label wine.

The five acres of land could yield around 20,000kg of grapes; enough to make 20,000 bottles of wine, of which the company will own half.

Mr Bowen has warned that the Dragon may be expected to roll up his sleeves — and possibly trouser legs — in joining the 200 existing shareholders who help Pebblebed with harvests and pressing the wine.

"I've told him that I'm expecting this to be a full investment," he said.

"All he does is chuckle at that, though."

Mr Bannatyne has already been filmed visiting the vineyard with his children and wife Joanne, however, for a follow-up programme which will be broadcast by the BBC in August.

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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