6 October 2023

Contentious Character winery and restaurant business for sale

| Ian Bushnell
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aerial view of winery

The Contentious Character property at Wamboin. Tough trading years have taken a toll, but an opportunity exists for renewal. Photo: VisitNSW.

One of the Canberra region’s most famous winery and hospitality operations is for sale after struggling to recover from difficult trading conditions across multiple fronts in recent years.

Contentious Character at Wamboin went into voluntary administration on 12 September after incurring losses for the past six years but is still trading and had sales of almost $2 million in the 2023 financial year.

Administrator Eddie Senatore has appointed Xcllusive Business Sales to sell the business’s stock and assets, including $4 million worth of unbottled wine and $2.3 million worth of bottled wine; or the business as a going concern; or the business and property together.

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Formerly the established Lambert Vineyards, the 24-hectare property was acquired by four friends – Tony Mansfield, Jeremy Wilson, Ben Jarrett, and Ross Appleton – for $2,385,00 in 2016.

The cool climate winery produces riesling, chardonnay, pinot gris, verdelho, merlot, shiraz, pinot noir and cabernet under the Contentious Character label and has storage capacity for 100 pallets.

The business also operates a restaurant five days a week, a bar and cellar door, and is a venue for functions such as weddings for up to 90 guests and outdoor events with a capacity of 1000.

But the business ran into a perfect storm of hostile trading conditions over the past few years, including the two COVID shutdowns, the 2020 bushfire smoke taint, the Chinese tariffs on Australian wine that led to the current wine glut, and two La Niña-fed wet seasons that affected the vintages.

Rising interest rates and the cost of living crisis have not helped.


The popular restaurant trades five days a week. Photo: Supplied.

Mr Senatore has yet to post a creditors report, and the number of creditors and how much they are owed is unknown.

However, it is believed the sale of stock and assets would be enough to satisfy creditors, and the intention is to trade out of trouble and keep the business, which employs about 16 staff, running.

The property is held separately from the business; options also include selling the business to a new operator who would lease the property from the current owners or selling the property.

The business assets are valued at $190,000.

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If purchasing it as a going concern, the client list, domain, website, E-commerce platform accounts, social media accounts, head office equipment and furniture, operational plant and equipment and vehicles are also available.

As a venue and tourism facility, Contentious Character has amenities for coach parking, outdoor dining, a pop-up wine bar, a private dining area, a gift shop and an electric vehicle charging point.

Contentious Character is the latest Canberra region food and wine business to buckle under the pressures of recent years.

The highest profile failure has been Pialligo Estate, which shut its doors earlier in the year and eventually went into liquidation owing more than $10 million.

The Contentious Character sale is being conducted as an expression of interest process, which will close on 18 October.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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