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Venture Links Leading Winemaker To Premium Site

New Venture Links Leading Winemaker To Premium Site

An important new player in New Zealand's wine industry has been created through the coming together of a leading winemaker and a wine-growing consortium of high profile business personalities.

Te Awanga Vineyards Ltd, owner of substantial vineyards in Hawke's Bay and of the small but successful Te Awanga Estate label, has signed a joint venture agreement with multi-medal winning winemaker Kim Crawford, setting up a company known as Kim Crawford Wines Ltd. The new company is half owned by Te Awanga Vineyards and half by Mr Crawford and his wife, Erica.

Te Awanga Vineyards takes its name from the region in Hawke's Bay where the majority of its grapes are grown. The joint venture partners are currently establishing a "boutique" winery and sales facility on the Te Awanga vineyard.

Under the joint venture agreement, wines produced from Te Awanga grapes will bear a Kim Crawford Te Awanga vineyard designation. In addition, Kim Crawford Wines Ltd will be producing and marketing wines made from grapes grown on a range of other premium North Island sites, including the Gisborne region's celebrated Tietjen vineyard.

The Te Awanga partnership was formed in 1995 by senior meat industry figure Graeme Lowe QSO, Wellington-based lawyer Andrew Morrison, Auckland-based businessman John Milmine, Hawke's Bay business consultant and viticulturist Jim Scotland and medical practitioner and wine industry veteran Michael Hewitt. All five partners have close links with Hawke's Bay.

"We have long been interested in vertical integration. An important aspect of this was identifying a joint venture partner with an appropriately high level of expertise and achievement in both winemaking and marketing," says Jim Scotland on behalf of the consortium.

"Kim Crawford's company was in many ways a natural choice as Kim is one of New Zealand's finest winemakers and has worked with us on a number of occasions, including the making of our 1997 and 1998 vintages. We are also impressed by Erica Crawford's depth of marketing expertise and the high reputation Kim's wines enjoy in a number of key markets," he adds.

According to Graeme Lowe, the joint venture could play an important role in bringing Hawke's Bay wines more to the forefront both within New Zealand and overseas.

"This is a region with well-established traditions of grape growing and wine making but our vineyards and labels have not always enjoyed the prominence they deserve. By bringing together a premium site, a top class winemaker and marketing expertise, we hope to raise not only our own profile but that of our region as a whole," he says.

As a contract winemaker, Kim Crawford has produced notable vintages from every one of New Zealand's main grape varieties and from all of the country's wine growing regions. His own label, launched in late 1996, has proved successful in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia as well as New Zealand.

Mr Crawford describes the joint venture agreement with Te Awanga is an important milestone in his label's development.

"The agreement provides us with a secure supply of top quality grapes along with a home base and access to greater reserves of capital. I'm also delighted at the prospect of becoming more involved with the Te Awanga site, which provides a superb environment for grape growing. The shallow pan, the qualities of the soil and the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean breeze make this in every sense a premium site," he says.

In addition to their association with the Te Awanga consortium, Kim and Erica Crawford will continue to market wine produced by Mr Crawford from South Island grapes through their wholly-owned company, Kim Crawford Wines (Marlborough) Ltd. MEDIACOM-RELEASE-NACEW

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