Casella, goFarm snap up Belvino vineyards

Larry Schlesinger - Australian Finanical Review

Hong Kong-backed Belvino Investments has sold its Dunvar vineyard in the NSW Riverina to Casella Wines for about $12 million and its Del Rios vineyard on the Murray River in northern Victoria to GoFarm Australia for between $22-$25 million.

In a third big vineyard sale, family-owned Kingston Estate Wines snapped up the 252-hectare New Residence vineyard near Loxton in South Australia's Riverland region from a Seven Fields investment syndicate for an undisclosed sum.

"Optimism in the sector starting to grow," said Tim Altschwager of Colliers International, who negotiated both the Del Rios sale and New Residence sales alongside colleague Nick Dean.

"The Australian dollar has come down, there's more activity in rural assets in general, and overseas wine buying markets are kicking some goals.

"The Chinese are importing much more wine than they have been in the past and US buyers are much more active."

The Dunvar Vineyards acquisition by Casella Family Brands, one of the country's biggest winemakers, was its third of the year following deals to buy Howcroft Estate Vineyards near South Australia's Limestone Coast for $9 million in February and Hawthorn Ridge and Reedy Creek vineyard in McLaren Vale for $12.4 million last month.

The sale of the 902ha vineyard near Darlington Point was negotiated by Col Medway, Richie Inglis, James Beer and Danny Thomas of CBRE on behalf of Belvino Investments.

Investment and divestment strategy

Belvino, which owned over 7000ha of vineyards in Australia prior to the latest divestments, is majority owned by Hong Kong-listed CK Life Sciences with ASXlisted financial services group Challenger holding a minority stake.

Mr Medway told The Australian Financial Review the sale of Dunvar was part of a planned investment and divestment strategy after Belvino acquired the vineyard from receivers for $8 million in 2012 and brought it back to profitability.

In its second divestment, Belvino sold the 900ha Del Rios vineyard on the Murray River to Melbourne-based agricultural investor, developer and manager goFarm.

goFArm, which manages a development portfolio of over 21,000ha of prime agricultural land in the Riverina and Sunraysia is run by agribusiness investor Liam Lenaghan and chaired by Robert Costa, co-founder of the country's biggest fresh fruit and veg group.

Mr Altschwager said the well-established Del Rios property generated interest from a range of local, national and international groups.

"Bulk wine stocks are currently low. We are receiving increased levels of enquiry for wine industry assets and, in particular, large scale warm climate vineyards that can produce high volumes of fruit to take advantage of increased overseas demand for fruit and wine," he said.

Belvino put the vineyards up for sale in February last year after winemaker Neil McGuigan's ASX-listed Australian Vintage Limited terminated its lease over the property early at the end of 2015.