Another collapse for D’Aquino Group

May 26, 2019
By Alana House

A second D’Aquino business has been placed in liquidation, with Hunter Wine Services (HWS) following Fernbrew Pty Ltd into receivership.

Hunter Wine Services was a contract winemaking company located in Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley, NSW. 

HWS produced four million bottles of wine a year, which was exported to 30 countries. It was Australia’s largest exporter of wine to Russia.

The Newcastle Herald has reported that HWS was also understood to supply about three million litres of raw ethanol to Fernbrew each year.

More than $4million worth of former D’Aquino Brothers alcohol went under the hammer last month, following Fernbrew being placed in administration due to owing more than $87 million to the Australian Taxation Office.

According to HWS former director and shareholder John Hordern, who was also the company’s chief winemaker, said HWS stopped bottling in September and “closed” in February.

“We were doing a lot of exports and we had a great team, it’s a real shame what has happened,” he said. 

The Newcastle Herald noted: “According to Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) documents, Fernbrew and Hordern’s family company, Anthony Hordern & Sons, owned a half-share in HWS until February 5 this year.

“Five days after Fernbrew was placed in voluntary administration, it bought out the Hordern’s share of HWS for $500,000.

“D’Aquino was the sole director and shareholder of HWS when it collapsed and the sole director of Fernbrew.

“Mr D’Aquino’s elderly mother Zina, and another man, Peter Tuson, are the owners of Fernbrew through a holding company.”

Rocky 12 months for D’Aquino Bros

A reported $87 million tax debt led Rex D’Aquino to place his company Fernbrew under administration earlier this year. 

It’s been a rocky 12 months for D’Aquino. Another of his companies, D’Aquino Bros Pty Ltd — based at the same address as Fernbrew — is also fighting a lawsuit brought by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The SWA took legal action against D’Aquino Brothers in July last year, following allegations it is selling fake Scotch.

The liquor in question was being served as ‘house spirits’ in bars and pubs, and sold in independent liquor stores in cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The SWA sued the company “for infringement of our trademark ‘Scotch whisky’”.

Mexico’s tequila regulator, Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT), also said two of D’Aquino’s brands of tequila were are “not linked” to the industry: Blue Cactus Tequila (D’Aquino Bros) and Reeba Reeba (Fernbrew).

Highland Heritage Estate.

Meanwhile, D’Aquino’s Highland Heritage Estate Restaurant and Function Centre closed on April 15.

A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page told customers with gift vouchers to contact the restaurant “immediately” for advice on their options.

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