A prominent French wine producer has purchased the Akarua brand, winery and vineyard in Bannockburn, with plans to turn it into an organic vineyard.

Akarua, which was founded in in 1996 by former Dunedin mayor Sir Clifford Skeggs, was sold to Bordeaux-based Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines (EDRH) late last week.

EDRH is a family-owned lifestyle brand, combining luxury hotels and restaurants, wines and farming expertise. It intends to convert and organically certify the 52-hectare Akarua Estate, including 34.5ha of vines, over the coming decade.

The Skeggs Group managing director David Skeggs said the new ownership would bring new opportunities for the Central Otago wine industry thanks to the significant global influence and networks of its new owner.

The Skeggs Group would continue to produce its Rua brand under a new name, Mora Wines, from 90 hectares of established vineyards in the Bannockburn and Pisa sub-regions.

The restaurant and cellar door in Arrowtown will stay with Mora, and be rebranded in the coming months.

‘‘We are still very much committed to the local wine industry, and we will continue to be involved with our remaining vineyards and the highly successful Rua brand. We are also looking forward to announcing some exciting new brand developments in the near future,’’ Mr Skeggs said.

Mora general manager Kathryn Pettit said Akarua had not been on the market until interest was expressed by EDRH.

‘‘They really wanted to purchase in Central Otago. They already own vines in Marlborough so are very aware of the New Zealand wine scene.

‘‘They saw the prestige of the region and they approached us.’’

Vineyards owned by EDRH across France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand produced 3.5 million bottles of wine every year, but the Central Otago vineyard would mark the group’s first entry into the organic market.

Ariane de Rothschild

EDRH president Ariane de Rothschild said Central Otago’s soil was world-renowned for providing exceptional growing conditions, with the potential to produce the world’s finest pinot noir.

‘‘The addition of our second New Zealand winery is part of our wider strategy to develop a portfolio of premium international wines from exceptional terroirs. Central Otago’s international reputation for pinot noir provides a unique opportunity for us to complete our range and move into the production of organic wines — one of the fastest growing categories,’’ she said.