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Bordeaux-based Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines (EDRH) purchased the 52-hectare Akarua Estate in Bannockburn late last week, including 34.5ha of vines. Akarua was founded in 1996 by former Dunedin mayor Sir Clifford Skeggs.
EDHR is a family-owned lifestyle brand, combining luxury hotels and restaurants, wines and farming expertise.
When fully converted and organically certified over the coming decade, the Central Otago vineyard is expected to produce more than 60,000 bottles of organic wine annually for the international and domestic markets.
Vineyards owned by EDRH across France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand produced 3.5 million bottles of wine every year, but the Central Otago vineyard would mark the group’s first entry into the organic market.
The Skeggs Group managing director David Skeggs said the new ownership would bring new opportunities for the Central Otago wine industry thanks to the significant global influence and networks of its new owner.
"It is not without sadness that we hand over the Akarua legacy to Edmond de Rothschild Heritage, but we are equally as excited to follow the brand’s future in New Zealand and overseas.
"Akarua has been part of our family since 1996 and we have real affection for the history and success that we have achieved.
"We do however recognise the significant network that the Edmond de Rothschild wine group has and the opportunities for Akarua to achieve new milestones," he said.
The restaurant and cellar door in Arrowtown will also stay with Mora, and will be rebranded in the coming months.
"We are still very much committed to the local wine industry, and we will continue to be involved with our remaining vineyards and the highly successful Rua brand. We are also looking forward to announcing some exciting new brand developments in the near future," Mr Skeggs said.
Mora general manager Kathryn Pettit said Akarua had not been on the market until interest was expressed by EDRH.
"They really wanted to purchase in Central Otago. They already own vines in Marlborough so are very aware of the New Zealand wine scene.
"They saw the prestige of theregion and they approachedus."
Mora was also preparing to launch a super premium wine brand for visitors to its cellar door and restaurant, making it available through a new website and wine club, Ms Pettit said.
EDRH’s wines are distributed across 80 countries and the purchase would increase access for New Zealand’s organic wine exports into new international market segments. The French company aimed to extend their range with a pinot noir produced from the exceptional terroir found in Central Otago.
The wines would continue to be produced under the Akarua brand with new labelling for the 2023 vintage in the domestic market integrating distinctive elements of the Edmond de Rothschild family crest.
Ariane de Rothschild, president of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, said the South Island site was handpicked as the location for the production of their new pinot noir.
The mineral complexity of Central Otago’s soil was world-renowned for providing exceptional growing conditions for this varietal and the terroir at Bannockburn was on par with the Burgundy region in Eastern France, with the potential to produce the world’s finest pinot noir, she said.
"The addition of our second New Zealand winery is part of our wider strategy to develop a portfolio of premium international wines from exceptional terroirs. Central Otago’s international reputation for pinot noir provides a unique opportunity for us to complete our range and move into the production of organic wines — one of the fastest growing categories," she said.