Why Accolade sold award-winning House of Arras

Accolade Wines has sold its award-winning sparkling wine brand House of Arras to Handpicked Wines for an undisclosed price.

The transaction includes the brand, 24 hectares of premium vineyards, inventory and the Bay of Fires winery and cellar door at Pipers River, Tasmania.

House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr is Australia’s most awarded sparkling winemaker and House of Arras is Australia’s most awarded sparkling wine brand, with 110 trophies and over 290 gold medals received across the domestic and international wine show circuits.

Earlier this year, House of Arras’ Museum Release Blanc de Blancs 2001 was awarded World Champion Library Vintage at the 2022 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships, the first time the trophy had left the Champagne region in what was described as an “astonishing coup”.

Recent figures show Tasmanian sparkling wine exports have risen from $1.3 million in 2016-17 to $3.2 million in 2021-22.

So why is Accolade selling such an exceptional winery?

Accolade Wines Chief Executive Officer Robert Foye said: “We wish the new owners every success and are pleased to be entrusting Arras to a company with extensive experience in fine wine that is well-placed to take the business to the next stage of its evolution.

“Whilst we remain incredibly proud of the success of Arras, it is a luxury brand that does not fit neatly with the rest of our portfolio focus areas at this time.

“Our focus is on locking in Accolade Wines recent success in major markets and concentrating our efforts on our successful commercial and masstige brands with global reach.”

Accolade Wines confirmed in May that it was “sounding out potential interest” from buyers for its House of Arras premium sparkling business, following media reports that its owner The Carlyle Group was battling high debt levels and tough times in the broader wine market.

The Australian Financial Review reported yesterday: “Accolade, owned by The Carlyle Group, has been battling high debt levels at a time when the commercial wine sector is being hit hard by grape oversupply and cost-of-living pressures.”

Handpicked Wines was established by William Dong more than 10 years ago and has vineyards and wineries across Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania, Yarra Valley and Barossa Valley.

Dong said: “House of Arras is a globally celebrated sparkling house and we are honoured to become the custodians of this admired brand and uphold its tradition of winemaking excellence.

“Handpicked Wines shares in House of Arras’ continued success as a highly acclaimed wine producer, representing great synergy to our combined portfolio of luxury brands. We look forward to working with Ed Carr and the team to bring Australia’s most awarded sparkling wine to the world.”

Handpicked Wines Chief Winemaker Peter Dillon said: “Ed Carr is one of Australia’s most respected winemakers and I’m excited to work with him through Arras and with the network of Tasmania’s best sparkling growers and vineyards.”

Under the terms of the sale, Accolade has entered into a long-term agreement to continue to produce and bottle all House of Arras brands under contract with Handpicked Wines.

The grapes will continue to be sourced and pressed in Tasmania and the wines will be made at existing facilities in the Accolade network, including Torresans in Woodside, South Australia, which will continue being a key third party location for traditional method tirage and bottling.

Accolade is retaining its other premium Tasmanian brands Eddystone Point and Bay of Fires, which will continue to be made at the same site under contract with Handpicked Wines.

The completion date of the sale will occur before the end of November. Accolade Wines were advised by Grant Samuel and Thomson Geer on this transaction.

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