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A Brief History of New Zealand Wine - Part One

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

2019 marked the 200th year that the first reported grapes were in New Zealand. That was when Englishman Samuel Marsden arrived. He planted his vines on September 25th, 1819.

Marsden also brought with him the first goats… …and the goats ate the grape plants.

Needless to say, the New Zealand wine industry didn’t get off to a great start.

Scotsman James Busby managed to actually produce a wine in the 1930s. Apparently, he did a pretty good job. When a French explorer visited in 1840 he described Busby’s efforts as ‘very sparkling and delicious to taste’.

The first French compliment to Kiwi wine!

But of course, the first people to come to New Zealand weren’t the Europeans. It was the Maori who discovered Aotearoa, as they named the islands they discovered roughly 850 years ago. Aotearoa means ‘the Land of the Long White Cloud’, and it is a commonly used alternative name for New Zealand.

People emigrated to Aotearoa from all over the world, and many brought with them their love of wine, (and how to deal with goats). A lot of the most famous producers in New Zealand are from these families. The people from Villa Maria and Kumeu River, two of Auckland’s and New Zealand’s best wineries, come from Dalmatia, on the coast of Croatia. The Corbans, another famous family, trace back to Lebanon. Emigrants from all over the world have contributed to the vibrant New Zealand story.

And that story keeps evolving. Thirty years ago there were around 100 wineries, and now we have over 700. Styles and varieties have changed from that goat plagued first attempt, and new techniques are being explored.

But we can look at that at a different time.

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