Wine industry toasts milestone
Brancott Estate is celebrating its 40th Marlborough anniversary tomorrow.
The milestone - marking the first plantings of vines in the region - effectively marks the beginning of the region's foray into the commercial wine industry.
Today, Marlborough is an international brand and home to more than 23,000 hectares of vineyards producing 75 per cent of the country's wine, according to New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan.
"Planting those vines was probably the single most important event in the history of the New Zealand wine industry," he said.
Since those first plantings 40 years ago.
Over the past 40 years, the industry has continued to grow into a multi-million dollar industry - Marlborough's wine exports in the past 12 months were valued at $900 million.
Next week New Zealand's largest event for the viticulture and wine industry, the Romeo Bragato Conference, will be held at the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim.
Around 550 winemakers, grapegrowers, and trade suppliers are expected to attend the event on from Wednesday to Friday.
Many Marlborough people are familiar with the story of the explosive growth of the industry over the past 20 years.
Government farming subsidies following an outbreak of phylloxera in the early 1980s allowed grape growers to pull out their poor performing and unfashionable varieties - largely cabernet sauvignon and muller thurgau - and replace them with more marketable varieties such as riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
Established brands such as Villa Maria, Corbans Estate and Brancott Estate (then Montana) took off, and a new breed of winemakers emerged.
Cloudy Bay and Hunter's Wines are recognised as being hugely influential in putting Marlborough on the map, and inspiring grape growers to develop their own wine companies.
But the past five years have been tough going for the region's grape growers and wine companies.
Fortunes have been lost and there has been consolidation in the industry, but companies that survived are leaner, more efficient, and have a better understanding of their markets heading into the future.
- The Marlborough Express