Yealands Family Wines Limited has pleaded guilty to five charges laid by New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), relating to inaccurate internal wine records and the making of false statements in export eligibility applications under the Wine Act 2003.

The company was fined $400,000, but highlighted that this was on the basis that it was legally responsible for the actions of now former staff members. In addition former general manager winery operations Jeff Fyfe was fined $35,000, former chief winemaker Tamra Kelly was fined $35,000 and former owner Peter Yealands fined $30,000.

The charges relate to all parties being complicit in making false statements regarding export eligibility applications, and material omissions in wine records relating to the use of added sugar – a breach of EU market regulation winemaking requirements.

MPI’s Manager of Compliance Investigations Gary Orr, said: “These are the first convictions for offending under the provisions of the Wine Act in New Zealand.

“It is common knowledge in the wine industry that you can’t add sugar post-fermentation to wine destined for the EU market, yet the parties convicted were well aware of what they were doing.

“Peter Yealands was made aware of what was happening at the time but failed to do anything to stop it.

“This is a significant case which has been the subject of a thorough investigation by MPI investigators and a case that took almost 2 years to complete.”

He added: “As a general rule, the wine industry is compliant and law abiding. That’s why this offending is very disappointing.”

Yealands Family Wines said that the company had cooperated fully with the MPI investigation as soon as the errors were brought to their attention in early 2016.  CEO Adrian Garforth said that the Company had taken immediate and decisive action to remedy the issues well before any charges were laid.

“Systems we have introduced, training and comprehensive audits mean that our wines are fully compliant, and breaches of this kind will not happen again,” Garforth said.

“These events which predate my appointment do not reflect our company values and our desire to do everything to the highest possible standard.  We have taken these charges very seriously.  In any business errors can occur; what is important is the response and we believe we have done everything possible to ensure that this could never happen again.”

New Zealand Winegrowers said it was “extremely concerned and deeply disappointed” and that “the industry has been badly let down by Yealands’ actions”.

New Zealand Winegrowers Chair John Clarke said any breach of the Wine Act is considered a serious matter and will not be tolerated.

“For the past thirty years, New Zealand’s wine industry has built an enviable reputation for high quality distinctive wines. This pursuit of quality and excellence has driven our export success,” Clarke said.

“New Zealand Winegrowers will continue to promote transparent compliance with regulatory requirements, both here and overseas. This will be critical to protecting the industry’s reputation.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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