16 October 2023

Collapsed Griffith winery’s logos and labels on sale for offers above $50,000

| Oliver Jacques
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Man holding grapes next to a wine bottle

Aaron Salvestrin next to a moscato bottle labelled 100 Million %, the label for which can now be bought. Photo: Supplied.

The trademarks, logos and labels of collapsed Griffith winery Sans Pareil Estate have been advertised for sale, with expressions of interest of $50,000-plus from prospective buyers due on Wednesday (18 October), Region’s exclusive ongoing investigation has revealed.

The controversial wine company, owned by 29-year-old Aaron Salvestrin, went into liquidation in October 2022 and allegedly owes the Australian Tax Office (ATO) more than $32 million.

The liquidator has already sold most of the physical assets of the winery, such as a McLaren P1 supercar, for $1.47 million, and a 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLE53, which reportedly cost $137,110.

READ MORE A $1.5 million McLaren and a $400,000 Mercedes truck among 21 vehicles listed in Griffith winery liquidation sale

But the company’s trademarks – the intellectual property (IP) that protects its branding, wine bottle labels and logos – are still up for grabs.

They include the words ”Devil’s Blend”, used on the label of a shiraz cabernet bottle alongside the image of a woman’s silhouette with horns, tails and boots, all in a net.

Another trademark, on the label of a moscato, features the words ”100 million %” next to a picture of a woman’s head, a bottle pouring wine into a glass, an explosion, and a bunch of grapes.

Bottles of the moscato can also still be bought online for $78 each from Dan Murphy’s. The only online review published on the alcohol retailer’s website described the product as “disappointment in a bottle”.

“I’ve had wine that’s half the price and twice as good,” the reviewer wrote.

The Sans Pareil Estate trademarks and labels have been advertised for an “urgent” sale on broker website Xcllusive Business Sales.

“Whilst the physical assets of the Company have been dealt with, the Company’s trademarks are for sale, not including business names or domain names,” the ad states.

“The Company formerly manufactured wine and bottled and labelled bulk wine, a new style of premium wines to its customers. Local distributors included some of the leading liquor retailers including the online wine and liquor retailers in Australia.”

Some 15 labels and 15 trademarks can be acquired, with offers of $50,000 or more due by 2 pm Wednesday (18 October).

Row of red-wine bottles

Sans Pareil Estate’s Devil’s Blend Shiraz Cabernet. Photo: Just Wines.

Wagga-based liquidation expert Andrew Bowcher of accountancy firm RSM Australia said it wasn’t uncommon for IP, such as trademarks, patents, brand names, business names, designs, copyright databases and domain names, to be offered in liquidations for sale to raise money for creditors.

He offered the following advice for anyone considering buying IP from liquidated companies.

“Ensure that the IP actually exists; ascertain what you are purchasing and what conditions may be attached to the IP; confirm that there is no claim or security on the IP and confirm that the IP isn’t going to become obsolete or not be allowed to be used in Australia, [such as] if it is named after a wine region in France where the word champagne can only be used for sparkling wine from the region.”

Mr Bowcher also suggested interested parties check whether any licensing agreements are in place for the IP and that the registration has been maintained via payment of renewal fees.

The Xcllusive Business Sales ad states: “The Trademarks relate to many of the brands used for selling wines in the local and international market (including UK/NZ).”

The extent to which Sans Pareil Estate actually sold its wine to international markets has been called into question.

The liquidator, insolvency firm Chifley Advisory, made this claim in a report to creditors written in January 2023: “The companies’ purported main and major international export business does not appear to exist, at least to the level claimed by the director in Sans Estate business activity statements.”

The liquidator added the following factors may have contributed to the financial difficulties of the company: “The alleged actions by the director [Aaron Salvestrin] who deliberately created false financial transactions and documents to make it appear as if Sans Estate was making large export sales and purchases. This appears to have been done with the intention of claiming GST refund to which Sans Estate had no entitlement.”

Mr Salvestrin has not been charged with any crimes in relation to the winery. However, the liquidator has initiated a Supreme Court case to recover money from him.

READ MORE Further twist in Supreme Court hearing on controversial Griffith winery sees mystery resolution imminent

A final hearing on this matter is scheduled for Tuesday (17 October).

Mr Salvestrin launched Sans Pareil Estate in 2018. The name is a French term meaning “without equal”. The company sold everything from bulk wine to black-label reds and received positive reviews for its flagship product – a 2018 shiraz named Monumental, the label for which is also for sale.

If you know more about this story, contact [email protected].

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