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Accolade Wines to acquire NZ brands Mud House, Waipara Hills

Hardys producer Accolade Wines is looking to profit from the growing popularity of New Zealand wines after agreeing to acquire several brands including Mud House and Waipara Hills.

Mud House’s Woolshed Vineyard, Marlborough

Accolade, which is owned by Australia-based Champ Private Equity, has agreed to pay an undisclosed fee for the brands, also including Dusky Sounds, Haymaker and Skyleaf, from the Mud House Wines Group, trading as New Zealand Vineyard Estates.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, offers Accolade a potentially important avenue into New Zealand wine, as well as expanded distribution in key markets, such as the UK.

‘We always said that we were looking to grow out portfolio via acquisitions and New Zealand is a large part of sales in Australia and the UK,’ said Paul Schaafsma, Accolade’s general manager for the UK, Ireland, Americas, Middle East and Africa. ‘These brands complement our portfolio really nicely,’ he told decanter.com.

Most of the multinational wine firms operating in the UK have been seeking to shift their portfolios towards premium wine, faced with duty tax rises, exchange rate swings and subdued consumer spending.

New Zealand commands a relatively high average price per bottle in the UK. At this week’s New Zealand wine trade tasting in London, a 2013 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc was listed at GBP11.99, with a Waipara Hills Sauvignon from the same vintage listed at GBP9.49.

‘We are the number one wine company in the UK [by sales] and we need to have a strong New Zealand offering,’ said Schaafsma.

As part of the deal, the New Zealand company’s vineyards are understood to have been sold to a Hong Kong-based firm named CK Life Sciences.

The Asian firm is already a strong player in New Zealand’s wine sector. Last month, it completed the NZ$16.2m purchase of the 170-hectare Northbank Millenium Vineyard in Marlborough, with 130ha of planted vines.

Accolade has agreed to lease back the Mud House vineyards and will manage them on a day-to-day basis, Schaafsma said. Accolade will retain Mud House’s 100-strong workforce, as well as its management team, headed by MJ Loza who will report to Michael East, Accolade’s general manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Written by Chris Mercer

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