Longview Estate's White Diamond wine goes from $30 to $598 a bottle

By Alexandra Newlove

4 comments
Longview Estate was taken over by a group of Chinese and New Zealand investors in March and the super-sweet White Diamond wine is being lapped up by the Chinese.
Longview Estate was taken over by a group of Chinese and New Zealand investors in March and the super-sweet White Diamond wine is being lapped up by the Chinese.

"Bloody hell!" was the reaction from a nationally-renowned wine critic when he heard the price now attached to a crowd-pleasing Whangarei wine.

Longview Estate's White Diamond, which at the start of 2016 was retailing locally for about $30 a bottle, is now being sold for a whopping $598.

The vineyard just south of Whangarei was taken over by a group of Chinese and New Zealand investors in March and the super-sweet variety is being lapped up by the Chinese, clearly prepared to pay top dollar.

The boutique wine had a cult-like following locally, and when news it would soon disappear from Northland shelves broke in July, hundreds of Advocate readers expressed their disappointment online.

The vineyard's new owners said the 570 per cent price increase was a reflection of what the Chinese were prepared to pay for the "niche" product.

Australasian Food Corporation (AFC), an NZX-listed company bought a 51 per cent share in the business on March 1. The remaining 49 per cent is owned by two Chinese investors.

AFC's Brent King said the company had since found "locals do not want to pay the international price" and directors had a responsibility to shareholders to sell the wine for the best price possible.

Demand in China was greater than what the vineyard could produce and the variety appealed to the Chinese palate as it was "fruity and quite sweet", Mr King said.

"We are certainly looking very aggressively at expanding production," Mr King said.

"It's hard on the current site because the grape is very sensitive to the weather, so we can't just blitz the whole site with White Diamond."

Auckland-based wine critic Vic Williams was surprised at the price.

"Six hundred bucks for a bottle of Niagara-based wine? Bloody hell!" he said.

"Well, good on them if they can do it."

White Diamond was another name for the Niagara grape variety - a type of sweet American table grape often used in jams and jellies, he said.

While most varieties familiar to New Zealanders were grown using grapes from the vitis vinifera family, the Niagara grape was from the vitis labrusca family.

"There is a burgeoning wine aficionado class in China ... and I can imagine they would think it was delicious," Mr Williams said.

The Vuletich family, still employed by the new owners, established Longview Estate winery in 1969. The vineyard had been on and off the market for more than a decade.

AFC's Mr King said the Vuletich family had done a "fantastic" job establishing it.

"You've got one migrant family from the Eastern Mediterranean (Croatia), who build up their business for many years, then another set of migrants comes along and buys it."

He said there was arguably a time in New Zealand history where Croatian migrants did not feel particularly welcome in New Zealand.

"The Chinese are maybe now going through the same thing but [this] goes to show that everyone brings value."

Mr King said Longview's port was also becoming popular, but more traditional varieties were not as appealing to the Chinese.

Longview was selling its 2013 vintage chardonnay on its website for a reasonable $20, and a 2014 merlot blend for $30.

- Northern Advocate

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