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A grape investment

Farmers Mutual Group is developing one of the last premium vineyard sites in Marlborough's Awatere Valley.

Thursday, November 6th 1997, 12:00AM

by Philip Macalister

Farmers Mutual Group (FMG) has bought one of the last quality river terrace properties in Marlborough's Awatere Valley and is developing it into a premium vineyard.
Its Brackenfield Estate Vineyard offering is aiming to raise $2.23 million to develop and plant the vineyard in premium, disease-resistant sauvignon blanc and cabernet vines.
On offer are 265 partnership units at $8430 each with payment over three years. The investment is projected to generate an 8.81 per cent internal rate of return over 15 years. In its first three years each unit is expected to provide investors with a tax credit totalling $1144.
The Awatere Valley's pioneer viticulturist Richard Bowling who established Vavasour Winery and has been involved in nearly all the vineyard developments in the area will manage Brackenfield.
While Marlborough has built its reputation on the wines produced in the neighbouring Wairau valley, those from the Awatere have won many awards and are considered to be quite distinctive.
Bowling says Brackenfield will grow grapes specifically for the premium market, and the early crops will probably be sold on contract.
He says 32ha of the 63ha property will be planted, and the majority of vines will be sauvignon blanc - the bread and butter variety of Marlborough's wine production.
FMG earlier promoted the successful $2.31 million Medway River Vineyard partnership which is further up the valley from Brackenfield.
As manager of both properties it will be the biggest grape producer in the valley and one of the larger growers in the Marlborough region.
FMG anticipates with two vineyards that it will have the economies of scale to build a winery in the future.
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