Apr 24 - The Winebow Group, a leading national importer and distributor of fine wine and spirits, and Negociants USA, a national importer dedicated to representing the best wines from Australia and New Zealand, are pleased to announce that Negociants USA will merge into The Winebow Group with a new portfolio focused on Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Jan 25, 2018 - Wine maturation startup Wine Grenade has recruited technology executive Brett O’Riley to its board. The appointment of O’ Riley, who also becomes chairperson, strengthens Wine Grenade’s commercialisation capabilities as the company expands into new wine growing territories and leverages data captured during maturation.
Dec 22, 2017 - A US billionaire is funnelling tens of millions of dollars into a three-pronged New Zealand fine wine investment, in an ambitious attempt to mirror a business model developed by a French insurance giant writes David Williams for Newsroom. The hope is to prove to the world that this country isn’t just a high-volume, low-price producer of sauvignon blanc – that it can, in fact, produce some of the best fine wine in the world.
Through Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates limited partnership, wealthy American Brian Sheth, and wife Adriana, paid $8 million to buy loss-making North Canterbury vineyard Pyramid Valley, in a deal approved by the Overseas Investment Office in September .
Details of Sheth’s New Zealand wine ambitions are contained in the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) decision, released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act.
It says the Sheths are also buying Central Otago’s Lowburn Ferry Estates (which requires another OIO application), including 27.5 hectares of land near Cromwell, and four hectares of yet-to-be-planted land in Hawke’s Bay’s Gimblett Gravel winegrowing area, as part of their “ambitious” investment plan.
“Achieving economies of scale is a key part of the investment,” the OIO decision says, while noting the Pyramid Valley purchase isn’t dependent on the other two going ahead.
“The applicant considers there is an opportunity to create a successful competitive business in the New Zealand fine wine industry, replicating a business model used successfully in Europe.”
Sheth’s business partner is Steve Smith, the Kiwi co-founder and developer of Craggy Range wines. Smith explains to Newsroom the idea is to emulate the business model developed by insurance company AXA. According to Forbes magazine, AXA has acquired wine estates in Burgundy, France, and Hungary and Portugal since 1987 and owns more than 500 hectares of vineyards around Europe.
Smith, who got out of Craggy in 2015, says the AXA fine wine entities coalesce under the same business and management umbrella, while retaining their independent brand and personality. It’s extremely successful as a strategy and a business, he says.
“We think we’ve got an opportunity to do that in New Zealand, where you have a bunch of these smaller, really high-end brands that, by themselves, probably struggle to be long-term sustainable businesses because of their lack of scale at a business level – not so much a lack of scale of wine-making.”
“In the context of a true fine wine investment in New Zealand it’s probably the most significant that’s been made, I would suggest.”
That’s great for New Zealand, he says. The danger, in his view, is the country being pigeon-holed as just a producer of sauvignon blanc at really good-value prices.
“That would be an absolute crying shame if that’s where the New Zealand wine industry ended up, because in this country are some of the world’s great wines made from some of the world’s most famous grape varieties. And we believe it’s really important that the world gets to see that.”
Across Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates’ three properties, Sheth’s investment is in the tens of millions of dollars, Smith says. “In the context of a true fine wine investment in New Zealand it’s probably the most significant that’s been made, I would suggest.”
The 80.7 hectare Pyramid Valley block is at Waikari, an hour north of Christchurch, close to the Waipara wine area. The vineyard was established by Mike and Claudia Weersing. The catalyst for the sale was the death of Mike’s father, Jim, who, alongside his family trust, were the operation’s major financial backers. The Weersings will initially stay on to manage the vineyard.
The vineyard is fully biodynamic and organic certified. Just over two hectares is already planted in grapes, with almost all the rest of the land used for pasture and water storage.
Pyramid Valley is high-end stuff. On average, 10,000 bottles of pinot noir and chardonnay, which retail for about $120 each, are produced each year. Two-thirds are exported.
(Yes, but how good is it? Smith says he regards the site as one of the best in the world to grow chardonnay. The combination of soils and climate give the wine a unique character, he says. “When you have a great bottle of Pyramid Valley chardonnay, particularly, but also the pinot, it leaves a lasting impression on you. With any high-end luxury product, that’s the name of the game.”)
The OIO decision lays out the breadth – but not the dollar value – of Sheth’s investment.
Two capital investments will be made over the next six years, including $1 million in the first three years. The first stage is to expand the vineyard area – the figures are redacted but to an area less than 10 hectares – thus increasing production. (Lowburn Ferry’s vineyard, near Cromwell, will also be enlarged.) Pyramid Valley’s vineyard development plans include building infrastructure for irrigation and frost protection.
After 2020, high-quality wine-tasting facilities and accommodation will be built on-site – although, the OIO says, “these facilities have not yet been designed, are at an early stage of planning, and do not yet have tangible costings”.
The OIO dismisses as “too vague, remote and unsubstantiated” claims by the Sheths that their Pyramid Valley investment will increase wine tourism to New Zealand, particularly by high-net-worth individuals.
Smith says Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates want to take time to design the tourism accommodation, “but I can tell you now that it will definitely happen”. “And, if anything, the level of investment that we talked about in the OIO application is probably conservative.”
The $2 billion man
So, in a possibly unfair binary choice, is Sheth’s investment a money-making hobby or a serious business endeavour? Smith leans towards the latter. But he admits Sheth’s technical appreciation of wine is more “sit around with his mates” quaffing a good wine, rather than “somebody who loves to hang out with serious wine geeks all the time”.
Sheth is “well-financed”, the OIO notes in an extraordinary understatement. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $US1.39 billion ($NZ2 billion). He is the co-founder and president of US investment company Vista Equity Partners, which manages more than $US14 billion, which is mainly for mergers and acquisitions, primarily in the software and technology sector. He lives in Austin, Texas, and used to work for Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.
Smith says Sheth loves wine, New Zealand and conservation. Sheth’s Sangreal Foundation and Global Wildlife Conservation entities fund a variety of causes, including a New Zealand Department of Conservation programme to help save the kaki, or black stilt, and school-building in Africa.
Sheth’s likely to shell out for more environmental causes, such as projects associated with the country’s target of being predator-free by 2050, Smith reckons. “As the projects evolve around that and they have some real chance of making a difference, I would expect Brian to be involved at an increasing level.”
Smith says Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates, which has brought on former Trinity Hill CEO Michael Henley as its chief executive, has been keeping quiet while it shapes its plans. Snuffling the aroma of the brands, swirling the different distribution channels, pondering the finish of tourism accommodation designs.
“I think that’s going to be a decent amount of work for a while,” Smith says. “There’s been a couple of other smaller wineries that have come to market in the last two or three months that we’ve had a look at and decided ‘no’, because we just want to concentrate on this at the moment. But if it fits what we want to do and it adds value to what we want to do then, of course, we’ll have a look at it.”
Earlier this week, a joint report by ANZ Bank and Deloitte said New Zealand’s wine export revenue reached $1.66 billion this year. For the first time, exports to Australia, US and United Kingdom topped 200 million litres.
The report says Canterbury and Waipara harvested 8240 tonnes of grapes this year. The area boasts 65 wineries, 14 grape growers and employs 440 people. That makes it a minnow compared to its powerhouse northern neighbour, Marlborough, which employs 2400 people and harvested 302,396 tonnes last year.
Most of those interviewed for this article agree that Grant Taylor, a Kiwi winemaker, was the first to come to California in 1979, to work at Pine Ridge in the Napa Valley. Taylor returned to New Zealand in 1993 and is the owner of Valli Vineyards in Central Otago.
The following is a partial list of Aussies and Kiwis, in chronological order by the date they first came to California and their present position in the California wine industry.
Rex Smith (Australia): 1984, winemaker William Knuttel Winery, Sonoma.
Daryl Groom (Australia): 1989, co-owner Colby Red Wine and Groom Wines
Nick Goldschmidt (New Zealand): 1989, Goldschmidt Vineyards and Nick Goldschmidt Consulting
Chris Loxton (Australia): 1991, owner/winemaker Loxton Cellars
Michael Scholz (Australia): 1991, vice president, Winemaking & Vineyards, St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery
Mick Schroeter (Australia): 1992, director of winemaking, Sonoma Cutrer
Toni Stockhausen (Australia): 1999, Winemaker, Bennett Valley Cellars
Wayne Donaldson (Australia): 2000, vp production, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits
Sean McKenzie (New Zealand): 2001, senior winemaker, The Dreaming Tree
Susan Doyle (Australia), 2003: chief winemaker, Spring Mountain Vineyard
Matt Parish (New Zealand), 2003: managing dir., Matt Parish Wines, sold through Nakedwines and International consulting winemaker.
Matt Johnson (Australia), 2008: chief winemaker Americas, Treasury Wine Estates
Andrew Bilenkiji (Australia), 2012: winemaker, Ledson Winery
Sam Glaetzer (Australia), 2016: senior vice president wine & spirits production, Constellation Brands
- Gerald D. Boyd
When people think of winemakers from other parts of the world who’ve influenced Sonoma County winemaking, they likely think of France or Italy. They don’t think of Australia or New Zealand. But they should.
In 1989, Daryl Groom, an Australian winemaker in his 20s, was one of the first Antipodeans to move to California to make wine. At the time, Groom was working for Penfolds, one of Australia’s largest and most respected wineries.
“Lisa and I never sought to move from our home in Tanunda in the Barossa Valley,” Groom said. “We had just built our house. I had the best winemaking job in Australia as senior red winemaker at Penfolds, and we loved our community and friends.”
At the time, Henry Trione, then the owner of Geyser Peak Winery, was in a partnership with Penfolds and the Australian wine company wanted their top winemaker to learn about making wine in California.
“I was asked by Penfolds if I wanted to go to California and make wine,” Groom said. “I was 29, my wife and I had a new baby, but Penfolds sweetened the pot by offering me my job back after two years in California. It promised to be a great adventure.”
A few years later, Penfolds sent Mick Schroeter, one of three winemakers who reported to Groom at Penfolds, to California on an overseas wine educational trip.
“I needed someone at Geyser Peak who knew Aussie winemaking techniques and who I didn’t have to train, so while he was here, I offered Mick the job,” Groom said. Today, Mick Schroeter is director of winemaking at Sonoma Cutrer.
For the Groomses, anticipating a new adventure in another country was mixed with concern. “Our only thought, now naïve, was all of the USA was full of crime and violence. On Aussie news at that time you only heard the ugliness of America, and in particular, New York at its worse. We were a little scared,” Groom said.
Groom said he and Lisa found life in Sonoma County easier than they expected. “People were overly friendly and so helpful in the community and at work,” said Groom.
Nick Goldschmidt’s move to California took a different path from the Grooms. The same year that Groom departed Australia for California, New Zealand winemaker Goldschmidt, restless with wanderlust and knowing his wife’s desire to live in California, applied to a number of North Coast wineries and landed a job at one of Sonoma’s iconic wineries.
“My wife, Yolyn, and I didn’t have kids back then, and we had been traveling for a year already, so we were capable of living elsewhere,” Goldschmidt said. “I applied by letter to three wineries in California and ended up working the harvest at Carneros Creek in 1989.”
A year later, Goldschmidt signed on at Simi to work with Zelma Long and Paul Hobbes. He stayed at Simi until 2003.
Before the move, Goldschmidt was on the winemaking team at such noted New Zealand wineries as Kumeu River, Coopers Creek and Babich. The Goldschmidts manage Goldschmidt Vineyards and Forefather wines from their home office in Healdsburg.
Even though there was some trepidation, the Goldschmidts found Sonoma County not much different from New Zealand.
“ ‘What an opportunity,’ we thought. Kiwis from little New Zealand moving to a big scary country like the USA,” he said. “But we found Northern California very similar to New Zealand, except we couldn’t swim in the ocean. The people were great and the place wasn’t as intimidating as we thought.”
The inviting and open attitude in California was refreshing for the Goldschmidts. “People in America celebrate success,” he said. “In New Zealand they have the Tall Poppy theory, where you are not expected to stand out above your peers.”
Goldschmidt said that although the pace of life is slower in New Zealand, Kiwis are open and opinionated.
“Americans are very sensitive, compared to the frank and opinionated attitudes of most Kiwis,” he said.
He admits the commonly shared language wasn’t a problem as much as different accents: “One of the first things I picked up on was the difference between rubbish and trash and we say mate to everybody.”
On his outlook on winemaking in California, Goldschmidt was direct.
“There is a lack of a specific wine culture in the U.S. wine industry,” he said. “Americans are trying to make wine for everyone with little consideration for such things as terroir.”
Still Goldschmidt is impressed with the growing diversity in the market and sees merlot as an underrated wine.
Groom also remembers the unknown in winemaking that lay ahead of him in California.
“That first year in Sonoma County was a challenge,” he said. “It was the harvest from hell, but we turned the wines upside down at Geyser Peak in two years, with fresh varietal sauvignon blanc and barrel-fermented chardonnay. It was a turning point in my career.”
Viewing California winemaking from an Australian perspective, Groom had this to say: “Australia deals with more infertile soils than California. And Australia works more with grapes on their own roots, rather than the grafted vines in California. That often means higher yields and dropping fruit which you don’t see in Australia.
“And then there was a language barrier,” he added with a laugh. “It’s the nature of people, I reckon, but Californians are more complex, descriptive than Aussies.”
He soon realized that the biggest confusion was different words for the same thing.
“I asked a lady if I could help her by nursing her baby. Nursing in Australia is simply holding a child,” he said. “My wife asked at the supermarket where the pot plants were. We learned she should have asked about potted plants.”
Looking to the future of wine in Sonoma County, both men like what they see in the growth for rosé wines. “Rosé is an important slot to fill in the expanding market,” Goldschmidt said.
Groom is seeing more lower-alcohol wines, with increased fruit expression, especially in Sonoma County.
Planning for the future in winemaking hit a snag recently with the wildfires in the county. Neither Groom nor Goldschmidt suffered personal or work-related fire damage. However, Groom said that because of a power outage for nine days, cabernet sauvignon he already had in the tank started to ferment, and he will have to downgrade the wine and not use it for his Groom label.
After decades in California winemaking, both men are going off in different directions.
Besides running his own brand, Goldschmidt Vineyards, Goldschmidt consults in Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand while devoting 25 percent of his time to Alpine Engineering, a company developing inventions related to wine, along with his wife.
Groom, on the other hand, has stopped traveling, deciding instead to freely mentor young winemakers. Part of his time, though, is spent with Colby Red Wines, a project he runs with his son, Colby, and wife Lisa that raises money for heart disease research.
“Of course, I still make Groom Wines in Australia,” he said.
Now, 30 years after moving to California, the question is: are Goldschmidt and Groom staying put or returning to their native countries?
Goldschmidt didn’t hesitate, saying that he and Yolyn are here permanently. Their five children are grown: a daughter lives and works in Australia, a son is a winemaker in Napa Valley, their twins are in college and the youngest daughter is a sophomore in high school.
The Grooms have also decided to stay in Sonoma County. Groom said their four children are Americanized. Of the three daughters, one lives and works in Los Angeles, one is in pediatric residency in Arizona and one is in the wine industry. Groom’s son is studying political science and traveling the country as a guest speaker on his journey with heart disease.
While the migration of winemakers from Australia and New Zealand has slowed in recent years, the lure of a new adventure and the opportunity to learn something new remains an attraction.
Groom and Goldschmidt are but two winemakers who made their way to California. A list of others now living and working in California is included in box at left.
Nov 21 2017 - The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture today announced that the New Zealand Government has nominated Dr John Barker for the position of Director General of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). The successful candidate will take up the position in January 2019. The OIV is an intergovernmental organisation which issues recommendations on viticulture and winemaking practices. It has 46 Member States and 13 Observers.
“Dr Barker understands the challenges and opportunities that face the organisation and the wine sector, and he has both the vision and the competence to ensure that the OIV can fulfil its role as the trusted vine and wine reference body for a rapidly changing market,” said Mr Peters.
“New Zealand’s membership in the OIV gives us the opportunity to identify and influence strategic global debates in areas affecting one of New Zealand’s most successful and fastest growing export industries,” he said.
Wine is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export, worth approximately NZ$1.7 billion in the year ended June 2017. Global exports are growing at approximately 10 percent per annum, and are expected to reach NZ$2 billion by 2020.
“New Zealand’s nomination of Dr Barker for the role of OIV Director-General signals our commitment to an organisation that is critical to the way wine is regulated in our key export markets,” said Mr O’Connor.
“The OIV plays an important role in helping to facilitate ongoing trade through establishing relevant technical standards for wine and wine products,”
Dr Barker is currently a Principal at John Barker Law. He has long-standing experience as New Zealand Winegrowers’ General Counsel, and has held several roles in the OIV – including the Presidency of the OIV’s Law and Economy Commission. He knows the people and the issues within the OIV, and also has positive and longstanding wine sector relationships with the countries and organisations outside the OIV.
Artificial Intelligence has been making waves in many industries and is increasingly affecting life as we know it.
Now the New Zealand wine sector is getting in on the act, with Lincoln Agritech Ltd developing a computerised system to make early-season predictions on the grape yield a vineyard is likely to harvest.
"Grape growers and wineries spend a lot of money trying to predict their grape yield each year," says Lincoln Agritech Optics and Image Processing Team Leader Jaco Fourie.
"This currently involves hiring a large number of workers to manually sample grape bunches."
Lincoln Agritech is working on creating a more convenient system that uses electronic sensors to accurately count grapes.
"The sensors will capture and analyse grape bunches within individual rows, and assess the number, sizes and distribution of grape bunches," says Dr Fourie.
"We’ll then feed this dat into computer algorithms, which have been designed by the University of Canterbury, to predict grape yield at harvest time."
New data will be added to the system each year, leading to continuous improvements in the model’s accuracy, with the system’s predictive power improving over time as more data is gathered under different conditions.
Dr Fourie says profitable wine production depends on early knowledge of the grape yield that is likely to be harvested each season.
"Estimating the yield as soon as possible allows marketers to know how much wine will end up being produced."
The main focus of grape varieties for the study is Sauvignon Blanc, after which the team will identify how much technology development will be needed for Pinot Noir.
The project is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and NZ Winegrowers. Collaborating partners include Plant and Food Research, Lincoln University, the University of Canterbury, CSIRO (Adelaide), NZ Winegrowers and local winegrowers in the Marlborough region.
Lincoln Agritech Ltd is a research and development company owned by Lincoln University.
| A Lincoln Agritech release || September 28, 2017 |||
Crownthorpe winery Monowai Estate has won three gold medals and been named Hawke's Bay Winery of the Year for the second time at the New York International Wine Competition.
After picking up one gold medal and two bronzes at last year's competition, Monowai Estate owner and winemaker Emma Lowe said this year's results reflected a change in attitudes towards New Zealand wines in America.
Read more: Hawke's Bay vintages impress judges at Bayleys Wine Awards
"I've just been over there and that's certainly a trend that's taken off over there so where New Zealand wines appear to be more and more popular."
Monowai Estate were awarded gold medals for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, 2015 Pinot Gris and 2013 Pinot Noir at the awards, which were held in the heart of New York City.
The competition is marketed as the only trade awards with a blind judging panel and this year showcased 1300 wine submissions from over 23 countries.
The export value of New Zealand wine has reached a record high according to the 2017 Annual Report of New Zealand Winegrowers. Now valued at $1.66 billion, up 6% in June year end 2017, wine now stands as New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export.
Over the past two decades the wine industry has achieved average annual export growth of 17% a year states the Report. “With diversified markets and a strong upward trajectory, the industry is in good shape to achieve $2 billion of exports by 2020” said Steve Green, Chair of New Zealand Winegrowers.
According to the Report exports to the USA have lead the strong growth, passing $500 million for the first time (up 12%). New Zealand wine became the third most valuable wine import into the USA, behind only France and Italy.
Mr Green highlighted that in order to achieve continuing value growth, it is critical for the industry to maintain focus on protecting and enhancing its reputation as a distinctive, quality product. “Our premium reputation remains the greatest collective asset for New Zealand wine, and underlies the high average price our wine commands in global trade”.
Improved protection of New Zealand’s regional identities through the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act, and initiatives such as the launch of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Continuous Improvement extension programme will help enhance the world-class reputation of New Zealand wine as a premium and sustainable product, said Mr Green.