Sale of NZ’s Lowburn Ferry vineyard completes for $2.1m

The sale of a Central Otago vineyard to Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates for NZ$2.1 million (£1.15m) has been approved by New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office (OIO).

The OIO has granted consent for Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates Ltd Partnership – a new venture between Steve Smith MW, who co-founded Craggy Range in 1998, and Brian Sheth, an investor and wildlife conservationist from Austin, Texas – to pay $2,195,000 for a 27.34ha vineyard at Lowburn Ferry vineyards in Cromwell, Central Otago, from Roger Simon Gibson and Mary Jean Gibson.

Approval to purchase the land was required under the Overseas Investment Act as it is rural land over five hectares.

Lowburn Ferry was founded by Roger and Jean Gibson in 2000 with a focus on Pinot Noir. Jean holds a degree in Horticultural Science while Roger, who holds a Masters degree in Applied Science, also works part-time as a tutor in the viticulture/horticulture department of the Otago Polytechnic, specialising in soils and plant science. The couple’s wines are made under the direction of chief winemaker Peter Bartle.

In a statement confirming its approval, the OIO said: “The applicant’s business plan includes building a winery, tasting room and accommodation facilities on the land, which will in turn create new full-time jobs at the winery. These aspects of the business plan must be completed to meet the OIO conditions. The investment will also result in increased land productivity and higher export receipts.”

The sale was first announced in August 2017, when it was also announced that the company had agreed to purchase Pyramid Valley Vineyards in Waikari, North Canterbury, for $8 million (£4.2m).

Speaking at the NZ annual wine tasting last year, Smith told the drinks business that ANZFWE plans to expand Pyramid Valley’s portfolio to include a Central Otago Pinot Noir, set for release later this year, produced from part of the Lowburn Ferry estate in Central Otago.

“We will continue to make Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir from its designated home block, but the balance of its vineyards will be used for Pyramid Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir,” explained Smith. “We will extend plantings of that vineyard, and that will be part of the Pyramid Valley story.”

The newly configured estate will be renamed Mata-au (Clutha River), which will comprise Lowburn Ferry’s home block, alongside the vines used to produce Pyramid Valley’s Central Otago Pinot Noir, added Smith.

Together, Lowburn and Pyramid are the first two major purchases by ANZFWE, which will be headed up by chief executive Michael Henley, formerly CEO of Hawke’s Bay winery Trinity Hill.

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