Grape escape

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Pinot moi, says Hendo, as receiver backs off.

Grapes for $6 million worth of Gibbston’s prized pinot noir have been caught up in legal disputes while on the vine.

Grapes at Anthem – a residential vineyard estate developed by Christchurch’s embattled Dave Henderson – are being picked this week, after a back-down in the legal ping-pong over the rights to pluck them.

On Tuesday, receivers of Anthem Holdings confirmed they’ve dropped moves to stop Henderson harvesting the 2009 vintage – despite telling Mount­ain Scene on Monday that there were questions over who owns the grapes once they’re off the vines.

“There are all sorts of argu­ments over who owns the grapes once they’re picked and that’s a matter for the lawyers to settle,” receiver Paul Sargison said on Monday.

Anthem Holdings is one of several Anthem companies link­­­­­ed to Henderson and his wife – this particular company was put into receivership last year by a finance company. Other Anthem companies are unaffected.

But there are still “a number of other issues” that need to be sorted out relating to Anthem Holdings and they’ll be heard in the Christchurch High Court next month, Sargison says. He won’t be drawn on these other issues because of the court hearing.

Henderson says Anthem grapes will be plucked this week.

“It will be subject to weather and a number of things but we are all ready to go. We have people employed.”

Sargison maintains another “$1m worth” of Anthem wine from 2006-08 vintages is held in Cromwell bond stores.
“The winemaking contract for them and the bottling contracts were with Anthem Holdings Ltd, of which we are receiver.

“However … the security over those wines was assigned to our appointors, Perpetual Trust.

“[Henderson] is arguing that he has since transferred those bottles of wine to another of his companies. We would say he couldn’t do that without the approval of the security holders. That’s a matter that’s being argued through the courts.”

Henderson has no comment on this aspect.

Another Anthem tussle has been taking place between Henderson and Bannockburn winemaker Richard Guthrey, who last year bought a four-hectare lot in a mortgagee sale of Anthem properties under Sargison’s control.

Guthrey claims negotiations with Henderson over the grapes on his land weren’t resolved and he and seven others started picking on Tuesday.

“The leaves are dropping now. Once the leaves are gone [the grapes] won’t ripen any further. The longer you leave it the grapes will just start to shrivel up,” Guthrey maintains.

“Particularly with the frosts that we’ve been having, they will deteriorate – we can’t afford to leave them any longer so picking has to be this week.”

He hopes to get about 20 tonnes of fruit from his harvest and will give Henderson half “to compensate him for whatever work has been done [by Henderson] till the contractors finished in January”.

Henderson confirms he knows Guthrey is picking this week but won’t comment further.

Anthem is believed to be Gibbston’s biggest vineyard and has about 40ha in grapes.

Guthrey, who owns Remarkable Wines, believes Anthem has the potential to yield about 200 tonnes of fruit annually.

About 120,000 litres of wine – or 160,000 bottles – could be made.

If sold to wine lovers at $38 each – like the award-winning Anthem 2006 pinot noir – this year’s vintage could fetch more than $6m retail.

Henderson is also behind the aborted Five Mile township in Frankton – his ownership company of that development was put into receivership last July.