Boom and bust in the Marlborough wine industry

By Karl du Fresne In Current Affairs, Wine

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A Marlborough vineyard near harvest. Photo/David White

As crews of grape pickers move through the vineyards of the Wairau and Awatere valleys, winemakers are hoping for an exceptional vintage to help bury the memory of the worst crisis in the Marlborough wine industry’s 40-year history.

This week’s Listener examines what happened when boom turned to bust in 2008, after a massive grape crop – too much for the wine market to absorb – coincided with the onset of the global financial crisis.

A lot of anguish was suffered by smaller players in the wine business – none more than Murray and Daphne Brown, owners of the now-defunct Cape Campbell Wines, who went into receivership in 2010.

The Browns feel aggrieved that the Bank of New Zealand, having lent them millions for the development of Cape Campbell, withdrew support rather than helping them through the crisis. And they are bitter at the way their assets were disposed of by the receivers, PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

According to Murray Brown, Richard Longman of PWC sold the 76-hectare Cape Campbell vineyard for far less than its true value – an assertion Longman emphatically rejects.

He acknowledges that receiverships are difficult and emotional for the shareholders and directors of companies affected, but points out that others suffer too. In the case of Cape Campbell, many creditors lost a lot of money.

Longman told The Listener that receivers, banks and creditors empathised with those caught up in the upheaval of the past five years. The level of distress, he says, was high and not always visible to the public.

For the full story of how the boom-and-bust cycle played out in one of New Zealand’s glamour export industries, read this week’s feature by Karl du Fresne, Bitter Harvest Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content

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