03 April 2001

Beringer Blass to purchase premium NZ winery

Beringer Blass Wines Estates, the world's leading premium wine group and a major division of Foster's Brewing Group, today announced an agreement to purchase 51% of the shares in New Zealand boutique wine producer, Matua Valley Wines, for $NZ11.2m (A$9.3m).

Regarded as one of New Zealand's top six wine producers, Matua Valley Wines (Matua) sold 135,000 cases of premium varietal wines in fiscal 2000. Exports, representing about 35% of sales, have been focused on Europe and Australia, with minimal penetration to date in the rapidly growing US market for New Zealand wines.

"With the benefit of our global distribution network and marketing support, we see a great future for boutique, New Zealand ultra-premium wine brands such as Matua, Ararimu and Shingle Peak," said Mr Terry Davis, Managing Director of Beringer Blass Wine Estates (Beringer Blass).

"We have great confidence in the international potential of top quality New Zealand wines, particularly in the US. New Zealand's distinctive Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines are acclaimed around the world and we can now offer our customers some of the most outstanding examples."

"We are delighted that founding winemakers, Ross and Bill Spence, who are highly respected in New Zealand wine circles will continue with us as we develop the market potential of their wines. We're also delighted that Mark Robertson, Matua's chief winemaker, is looking forward to an outstanding 2001 vintage in both yield and quality."

Regarded as the "founding father of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc", Ross Spence planted the country's first vines of this variety near Auckland in 1974. He is also the immediate past Chairman of the New Zealand Wine Institute. Chief Winemaker Mark Robertson was named Winestate magazine's 1998 New Zealand Winemaker of the Year.

Set among rolling hills and with picturesque gardens, Matua's winery and visitor centre is located 30 minutes from the centre of Auckland. Offering vineyard experience tours, it is considered to be one of the region's top winery destinations.

Appealing to a premium, niche market, New Zealand wines' international success has grown strongly.

According to Statistics New Zealand figures for the year ended June 2000, the UK maintained its lead as the largest export market for New Zealand wines.

In that period, however, the US overtook Australia to become the second most significant export market, with the volume and value of its New Zealand wine sales almost doubling. Data compiled by MKF Research of California shows that New Zealand wines comprised the fastest-growing category for imported wines in the US in calendar 2000.

To date, the success of New Zealand sales in the US has been based on white varieties, which account for more than 90% of this market category.

The growing appeal of Pinot Noir in America represents a key emerging market opportunity for the Matua Valley Wines range, given that New Zealand is widely acknowledged as one of the few countries to excel with this temperamental grape variety. In the US, Pinot Noir attracts the highest average bottle price (US$10.38) and among the strongest annual sales growth (20%) of all wine varieties, according to Nielsen foodstore sales data for the 12 months to February 2001.

Matua has invested strategically in vineyard development, enabling Beringer Blass to pursue export growth potential. Approximately 50% of its grape intake is sourced from owned vineyards. As its developing vineyards begin yielding, Pinot Noir will double as a proportion of its annual grape intake by 2005. Sauvignon Blanc grapes will continue to account for about one third of the intake.

Subject to New Zealand Overseas Investment Commission approval, the purchase agreement also gives Beringer Blass the option to acquire the remaining 49% of Matua over the next three years.

Further Information


Australia, Asia Pacific, Europe:

Rell Hannah
Director Corporate Affairs
Beringer Blass
Tel: +613 8626 3307
Mob: 0419 369 075
Email: rell.hannah@beringerblass.com.au

United States:

Mora Cronin
V-P Public Relations & Corporate Affairs
Tel: +1 707 963 8989, ext. 2243.
Email: croninm@bwecorp.com


Domenic Panaccio
V-P Capital Markets
Tel: +613 9633 2641
Email: domenic.panaccio@fostersgroup.com

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