Yealands Wine Group appoints new chief executive Adrian Garforth

Yealands Wine Group chief executive Adrian Garforth.
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Yealands Wine Group chief executive Adrian Garforth.

The new chief executive at one of the largest wine exporters in New Zealand says its growth is nothing short of miraculous, but there are still opportunities to expand.

Yealands Wine Group, which was founded by sustainability pioneer Peter Yealands in 2008, has appointed a new chief executive, Master of Wine Adrian Garforth.

Garforth replaces Jason Judkins, who resigned last year after nine years at the helm, during which time the company grew rapidly to become a major player in the industry. 

The new chief executive has more than 30 years' experience in the wine industry across a wide range of roles, from marketing and distribution to managing a winery in South Africa.

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For the past 14 years he has run his own company, Blackrock Wines, which offers consultancy services to international wine companies, as well as restaurants in the United Kingdom.

Garforth said his first experience of wines from Yealands Wine Group was during a blind tasting, as part of a job advising restaurant chain Wagamama about their wine list.

The wine, a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, made an impression and soon he was working for Yealands Wine Group on a consultancy basis, helping build their international markets.

This connection put him in good stead during the interview process for the new role, which attracted high-quality applicants from around the world, he said.

Yealands Wine Group exported its wine to more than 85 different markets, shifting in excess of 2 million cases in the year to June 2016.

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"What has been achieved in that winery in such a short space of time is nothing short of miraculous to be honest," Garforth said.

"But the markets we're in, we are still relatively small, because we're a relatively new entrant in the game.

"We've got to persuade a lot of people to want to play with us, and that's the challenge we have at the moment."

Garforth predicted the appeal of New Zealand sauvignon blanc would continue to grow, which put Yealands Wine Group in a strong position to expand its reach and grow as a company.

To meet this demand the company would need to further scale up its operations, and Garforth said there was an expansion plan in place to grow its Marlborough base and winery.

"For me, everything is driven by the marketplace and the way we see things at the moment there is certainly scope for growth," he said.

Last year, Marlborough Lines, which owned 85 per cent of the company, invested $4.35m to buy land adjoining Seaview Vineyard, the main grape source for Yealands Wine Group.

The lines company was owned on behalf of electricity consumers in the region, and Garforth said he knew he needed to maintain close connections with the board.

"I think my relationship with the board, with the Marlborough Lines team, it's got to be a really, really close one, because they're accountable to the trustees, to the people, so we've got to take our direction from there," he said.

The new chief executive would be spending the bulk of his time in New Zealand - he was formerly based in London - either in Auckland or in Marlborough, where the company had its winery.

 - The Marlborough Express

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