Yealands Estate fined NZ$400,000 for breaching wine rules

Major New Zealand producer Yealands Estate and its ex-owner have been fined after pleading guilty to previously breaking the rules on wine destined for the European Union.

In brief

  • NZ$400,000 fine relates to wine destined for EU between 2012 and 2015
  • Court hands out additional fines to ex-owner Peter Yealands and two former, senior staff
  • Company’s new management says it ‘cooperated fully’ with probe and no affected wine sold under Yealands brand name

Full story

In what New Zealand government officials described as an unprecedented case, Yealands Estate Wines Ltd was fined NZ$400,000 by Blenheim District Court this week.

The firm admitted to breaching New Zealand’s 2003 Wine Act.

Previous management failed to declare that some wine intended for export to the European Union had been sweetened with sugar after fermentation – contrary to EU wine rules – said New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), which brought the prosecution.

That amounted to ‘deliberate deception’, said Gary Orr, the MPI’s manager of compliance investigations.

‘The records relate to more than 6.5 million litres of wine, and around 3.7 million litres of affected wine were exported to Europe between May 2013 and December 2015,’ Orr said, following a two-year investigation.

‘These are the first convictions for offending under the provisions of the Wine Act in New Zealand,’ he added.

Judge Bill Hastings also imposed fines on three individuals involved, all of whom pleaded guilty:

  • Peter Yealands, ex-owner, was fined $30,000;
  • Jeff Fyfe, ex-general manager for winery operations was fined $35,000;
  • Tamra Kelly, ex-chief winemaker was fined $35,000.

Yealands said that none of the affected wine was sold under its own brand name.

The company has since come under new ownership in the form of electricity firm Marlborough Lines, which bought an 80% stake in Yealands in 2015 and acquired the rest of the wine group earlier this year.

Yealands said that  it ‘cooperated fully with the MPI investigation as soon as the errors were brought to [our] attention in early 2016’.

Adrian Garforth, the current Yealands CEO, said, ‘Systems we have introduced, training and comprehensive audits mean that our wines are fully compliant, and breaches of this kind will not happen again.

‘These events, which predate my appointment, do not reflect our company values and our desire to do everything to the highest possible standard.’