HISTORIC JAPANESE SHOCHU MAKER NISHI BOUGHT NEW ZEALAND'S URLAR VINEYARD
By Susan Lewis
Wairarapa-based Urlar Farms Limited has been sold for NZD8.75 m to Nishi Sake Brewing, the 173-year old leading Shochu producer from Kagoshima in Japan.
The purchase includes 40.1 hectares of land at the Urlar Estate as well as 2.1 hectares in East Taratahi, Carteron.
New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office gave Nishi approval in December last year and the sale was settled just before Christmas.
Nishi is planning to add a new barrel room and cellar door to the winery and will hire 50% more staff. It will also fund two prospective viticulture and oenology students through a Bachelors or Masters course at Lincoln University.
With its matured distribution channels in Japan, the company is confident in increasing Urlar’s exports fivefold within the next five years.
Urlar was established in 2004 when Angus & Davina Thomson planted 30 hectares of vineyards in Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling. The company which is committed to organic and biodynamic principles has developed a strong international brand and now exports approximately 75% of its wines.
“Nishi Sake Brewing is planning to take the company to a new level and will establish Urlar as a leading NZ wine brand in Japan. They have very well established distribution channels as their Shochu is widely available throughout the country in premium retail and hospitality
outlets,” said Angus Thomson.
Nishi Sake Brewing was established by the Nishi family in 1845 and has specialised in distilled beverage production for eight generations.
Under the leadership of current president Yoichiro Nishi, the company has recently expanded its portfolio to include sake, bottled water and soda drinks and now moves to further expand to add New Zealand wine.
The Nishi president was said to have a passion for Wairarapa Pinot Noirs, he is overseeing in person the acquisition of Urlar Farms and the inclusion of its wines in the company’s distribution channels in Japan.
(the writer can be contacted at: SusanLewis@thewinechronicle.com)
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