Accolade Wines triumphant march

Triumphant march

Accolade Wines has started a roadshow, or better put, a triumphant march, to show its strength, worth and greatness to potential investors.

What it offers is a huge array of brands, from cask to top end, especially as it now boasts the recently acquired Croser, Petaluma, Knappstein, St Hallett, Stonier, Wither Hills, Te Hana and Tatachilla brands.

Accolade is majority owned by CHAMP Private Equity (80.1 per cent), with the remaining 19.9 per cent still in the hands of Constellation Brands, from which CHAMP acquired its share in 2010 for about $290 million.

It’s reported Accolade produces about 38 million cases of wine annually, with its largest market being Europe (accounting for about 60 per cent of group sales). But how much is this worth in sales and profit?

That’s not easy to answer, as it’s a privately owned company. According to documents filed at Companies House in the UK on 17 November 2016, Accolade Europe did not trade in the year to 30 June 2015, though in December 2014 it did pay a dividend of £1.23 million to its parent company, Freetraders Group Ltd. In turn, the ultimate controlling party of Freetraders is CHAMP III Fund, which itself is comprised of several sub-holdings.

Freetraders Group has an interesting history. It was established as Oval (667) and incorporated on 22 October 1990 with 100 shares at £1 per share. Oval (667) changed its name to Free Traders on 13 December the same year, splitting the shares into 1000 at 10 pence each. On 18 February 1991 the name changed again, to Freetraders Group Ltd.

At this stage it was listing its principle activity as a distributor of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. In short, Matthew Clark. By 1998 the principal activity had changed to holding of investments in subsidiary undertakings.

Constellation Brands acquired Matthew Clark in 1998 and incorporated the MC accounts into its to the end of February 1999.

But it kept the Freetraders Group Ltd separate. This arrangement meant Freetraders was exempt from the requirement to prepare group accounts. Any accounts prepared were as an individual company and not the whole group.

It’s the usual financial trickery that goes on today. Looking at the Freetraders Group strategic report for the year ended 30 June 2015, the company did not trade. However, it did pay a dividend of £14.35 million to its parent company, Accolade Wine Europe. One year it’s a subsidiary, another it’s the principal.

The auditors played their cards close to their chests, saying of the 2015 accounts: “Adequate accounting records have not been kept, or returns adequate or returns adequate for our audit have not been received from branches not visited by us; or the financial statements are not in agreement with the accounting records and returns; or certain disclosures of directors remuneration specified by lay are not made; or we have not received all the information and explanations we require for our audit.”

Smoke and mirrors come to mind.

Not many out of 100

Two important top 100s were announced this past week, both from the US. How many Australian wines were in them?

The answer is three on each list.

In the Wine Spectator top 100 the highest was placed 30:

  • 30: MollydookerShiraz McLaren Vale Carnival of Love
  • 34: John Duval Plexus Red Barossa Valley
  • 71: Two HandsShiraz McLaren Vale Lily’s Garden

The other top 100 comes not from wine critics but simply what has sold. As the media release says:

It’s a list based exclusively on customer preferences, reflecting the top wines purchased during the first 11 months of 2016. With more than 25,000 unique wines to choose from this year, the list provides insight into consumer’s online wine-buying patterns.”

This is the 10th release of the top 100. This year the top 10 selling wines were:

  1. Brancott Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
  2. Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label (France)
  3. Trivento 2015 Malbec Reserve (Chile)
  4. Haras de Pirque 2011 Hussonet Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)
  5. Meiomi 2013 Pinot Noir (California)
  6. Rombauer 2014 Chardonnay (California)
  7. Miraval 2015 Rosé (France)
  8. Clos du Val 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
  9. Caymus 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (California)
  10. Borgo Scopeto 2013 Chianti Classico (Italy)

Top of the list is a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, with not an Australian in sight. The only year an Australian made No.1 was in 2010, with d’Arenberg 2008 Stump Jump Shiraz. This year the three Australian wines in the top 100 were:

  • 17: Robert Oatley Signature Chardonnay 2014, Australia
  • 57: Wirra Wirra Church Block CSM 2013, McLaren Vale
  • 87: Angove Family Winemakers Dr Angove Red Blend 2013, South Australia

To show the breadth of the 100 sales, some facts:

  • Red wine (67)
  • White wine (20)
  • Champagne and sparkling (11)
  • Rosé wine (2)


  • Cabernet sauvignon (26)
  • Chardonnay (6)
  • Sauvignon blanc (7)
  • Pinot gris/grigio (5)
  • Bordeaux blends (5)
  • Pinot noir (12)
  • Other red blends (7)
  • Sangiovese (4)
  • Rhône blends (1)
  • Grenache (2)
  • Malbec (4)
  • Muscat (1)
  • Nero d’avola (1)
  • Non-vintage (9)
  • Other white blends (1)
  • Rosé (3)
  • Tempranillo (4)
  • Vintage (1)
  • Zinfandel (1)


  • California (43)
  • Washington (7)
  • Australia (3)
  • New Zealand (5)
  • France – Bordeaux (4)
  • France – Rhône (1)
  • France – other regions (4)
  • Italy (13)
  • Spain (8)
  • South America (12)

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