One of the shareholders in a boutique upmarket Gisborne vineyard founded by Nick Nobilo tipped the business into receivership, the wine industry pioneer has revealed.
Nobilo said Vinoptima Estate was only in the hands of BDO receiver Andrew McKay "because one of the shareholders called up their advance" which he said was more than $1m.
He refused to identify that shareholder but said it was nothing to do with Nobilo interests.
Company Office records show major Gisborne landowner Wi Pere Investments, Taupo's Tuaropaki Kaitiaki, Nobilo Trustee, DMG Trustees (2006) and Nick Nobilo own Vinoptima.
The estate is due to be sold in early December.
Nobilo said the vineyard was established in 2000 and from its first vintage in 2004 through to 2015 produced an annual 40,000 bottles of gewurztraminer - a variety he thought had a bright future, particularly in the Gisborne area.
But the business had not returned enough to satisfy shareholders and remained capital-intensive, so a decision was taken more than a year ago to sell to repay original capital plus advances.
"We were promoting the sale of the business to China and we had a contract on it but it collapsed about a year ago. We were looking at other options," Nobilo said.
The vineyard had around 100,000L of unsold wine, he said, stored in bulk.
BDO's McKay also said there was a "sizeable" stock of unsold wine.
Nobilo remains convinced Gisborne was the right area for a top variety like gewürztraminer.
"It still is a very premium wine which has great accolades and my philosophy with Gisborne was it was a wine that bottle-aged very well. We didn't release it for five years after bottling. It continues to improve in the bottle and gets better. That's why we bottled under cork, not screw top."
Pre-harvest vines were protected with special rain covers and the end product was "very intensive hand-crafted wine. There was no penny-pinching."
The winery was "one of the better boutique wineries anywhere in New Zealand, good for Gisborne, because it put it on the map. Gisborne was once the bread basket of the New Zealand wine industry," Nobilo said, well ahead of Marlborough and other South Island regions. Yet it had fallen behind over the years, but that was not due to excellent conditions.
The area produced top chardonnay and aromatic varieties such as pinot gris and gewurztraminer due to its soil and climate, he said, and he hopes Vinoptima will continue to produce top-class product.
"My hope and sincere belief is that the vision for Vinoptima will continue in what ever form it takes from here. It's not a dead duck!"