100,000L of premium NZ wine set to drench market

Gewurztraminer grapes on vine. Photo: Getty Images
Gewurztraminer grapes on vine. Photo: Getty Images

A vast "wine lake" of 100,000 litres of Gewürztraminer is currently waiting to be sold at a Poverty Bay vineyard, which has gone into receivership.

Prominent vintner Nick Nobilo, who in 2000 founded the Vinoptima (Latin for best wines) Estate near Gisborne, said this week 100,000l of Gewürztraminer had been accumulated from the vines.

All is now under the control of BDO receiver Andrew McKay in Auckland after an unnamed shareholder pulled the plug in August. McKay acknowledged a "sizeable" amount of wine to be sold but said he thought it was 100,000 bottles.

He is in discussions to sell the wine and hopes to get a top price: "It's only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. I don't know what we'll get. The only way is to test the market and I'm talking to lots of people."

Whether creditors are paid depends on the December 4 property auction and the wine could be sold simultaneously, he said: "I'm open to all permutations. If we sell it in the interim, that's good."

Another vineyard business could buy all the wine "and blend it", he said.

McKay, said he had never sold that much wine before and his first report will be issued on Friday.

Nobilo, whose vineyard web site says he is "regarded as a pioneer of the modern New Zealand wine industry", said the wine was all stored in vats and none was bottled.

People in the area said they had heard of 100,000 bottles being stored on the estate but Nobilo revealed far more: if decanted into standard 750ml, it could yield more than 133,000 bottles of the premium variety which Vinoptima advertises for $75/bottle, meaning the "lake" could be worth more than $9m.

Nobilo was the estate's managing director and winemaker on the 9ha property which Bayleys says is in two titles.

Nobilo said the vineyard produced around 40,000 bottles annually between its first vintage in 2004 and 2015.

So the "lake" appears to be at least two seasons of production.

Kevin Courtney, a vintner of Marlborough's Riverby Estate, said 100,000 litres was "large" considering the premium nature of the wine and specialised niche market which he said was mainly overseas.

The wine might only fetch $3.50/litre to $4.50/litre, yielding as little as $350,000, well short of the $9m it could be worth if it was bottled and exported if the vineyard had carried on operating and was not in receivership and all its assets up for sale, he estimated.

Courtney stressed that Gewürztraminer was a niche product and that at $75/bottle, the buyer pool was even more limited so the wine had therefore probably been aimed mainly at the export market.

"That's a large amount of wine to have stored given it's a premium product but with a very niche market here," he said.

Many New Zealanders would only be prepared to pay around $20/bottle for Gewürztraminer, he said.

In bulk, a wine distributor would pay a price far below that of a bottled wine, he said.

Vinoptima shareholders are major Gisborne landowner Wi Pere Investments, Taupo's Tuaropaki Kaitiaki, Nobilo Trustee, DMG Trustees and Nick Nobilo. Nobilo said one of the shareholders had called up an advance to the business.

Chris Torrie of BDO Gisborne is Wi Pere Trust's secretary and said it was not that entity which called in the receiver. Nobilo said none of the Nobilo interests had done that either.

Vinoptima's website indicates a strong export focus, with resellers all around the world, although not in China. Nobilo saw a big future for his wines in Asia, his website saying that in 2012, he "undertakes his 10th visit to China in less than three years. The demand for Vinoptima wines in Asia is continuing to build".

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