Joelle Thomson

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Week in the life of Bannockburn

From Bordeaux to Otago

The creation of a new organic vineyard in Otago, by a prominent French wine producer, is set to boost New Zealand’s exports and international profile.

Bordeaux based Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines has been granted consent to acquire a 52 hectares estate with 34.5ha of vines in Central Otago’s Bannockburn, along with the Akarua Estate vineyard, which was founded in 1996 by former Dunedin mayor Sir Clifford Skeggs.

Edmond de Rothschild Heritage is a unique, family-owned lifestyle brand, combining luxury hotels and restaurants, wines and farming expertise.

When fully converted and organically certified over the coming decade, the Central Otago vineyard will produce over 60,000 bottles of organic wines annually for the international and domestic markets.

The nine vineyards owned by Edmond de Rothschild Heritage across France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand produce 3.5 million bottles of wine every year, however the Central Otago vineyard will mark the group’s first entry into the organic market.

Edmond de Rothschild Heritage’s premium estates wine offering is distributed across 80 countries and is set to increase access for New Zealand’s organic wine exports into new international market segments. The company aims to extend their range with a super-premium Pinot Noir produced from the exceptional terroir found in Central Otago.

The wines will continue to be produced under the Akarua brand with new labelling for their 2023 vintage in the domestic market integrating distinctive elements of the Edmond de Rothschild family crest into its design.

Ariane de Rothschild, president of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, says that the South Island site was handpicked as the location for the production of their new Pinot Noir.

She says the mineral complexity of Central Otago’s soil is world-renowned for providing exceptional growing conditions for this varietal and the terroir at Bannockburn is on par with the Burgundy region in Eastern France - with the potential to produce the world’s finest Pinot Noir.

“The addition of our second New Zealand winery is part of our wider strategy to develop a portfolio of premium international wines from exceptional terroirs. Central Otago’s international reputation for Pinot Noir provides a unique opportunity for us to complete our range and move into the production of organic wines - one of the fastest growing categories,” says Ariane de Rothschild.

“The purchase of Akarua has seen us add a winery with strong growth potential to our portfolio, expanding our Pinot Noir offering and solidifying our position as a premium producer that sells wines exclusively produced from our own vines,” says Alexis de La Palme, chairman of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage.

Boris Bréau, managing director of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines, says the acquisition of Akarua will see the Central Otago winery join a carefully curated consortium of family-owned boutique vineyards.

The Skeggs Group managing director David Skeggs says the new ownership of the Akarua Estate Vineyard will bring new opportunities for the Central Otago wine industry thanks to the significant global influence and networks of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage.

“It is not without sadness that we hand over the Akarua legacy to Edmond de Rothschild Heritage, but we are equally as excited to follow the brand’s future in New Zealand and overseas. Akarua has been part of our family since 1996 and we have real affection for the history and success that we have achieved. We do however recognise the significant network that the Edmond de Rothschild wine group has and the opportunities for Akarua to achieve new milestones,” he says.

The Skeggs Group will continue to produce its Rua brand from its 90 hectares of established vineyards in the Bannockburn and Pisa sub-regions. It’s also business-as-usual for the restaurant and cellar door in Arrowtown, however this will be rebranded in the coming months.

“We are still very much committed to the local wine industry, and we will continue to be involved with our remaining vineyards and the highly successful Rua brand. We are also looking forward to announcing some exciting new brand developments in the near future,” says Skeggs.