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Villa Maria grower owes $24 million

A Marlborough grape grower that supplied fruit to major brands including Villa Maria and Montana owes creditors more than $24 million (£10.8m)

The receivers report that Awatere Vineyard Holdings and Awatere Vineyard Estates owe $24.71m, mainly to Westpac bank, after going into administration in June.

Awatere’s demise could be followed by many New Zealand wine companies that privately admit they are struggling financially. Vineyard area in New Zealand has tripled since 2000, with grape prices falling as much as 50% following two consecutive bumper harvests, in 2007 and 2008.

Central Otago producers Anthem Hodings and William Hill winery, and Marlborough’s Cape Campbell have already fallen victim to the oversupply and economic downturn.

Awater Holdings owner Barry Sutton, an Auckland businessman, told New Zealand’s Dominion Post it had supplied 1000 tonnes of Sauvignon Blanc to Montana and Villa Maria in 2010 at $1300 (£589) a tonne, which was below the cost of production.

The receivers continue to run the 299ha property and will look to recoup much of the debt through a sale.

Written by Rebecca Gibb

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