Heard it on the grapevine
Grape grower earns industry recognitionKAT PICKFORD
Fairhall grape grower Stuart Smith has been recognised for services to the country's wine industry.
New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Steve Green announced Mr Smith's induction to the roll of fellows at the 29th annual Romeo Bragato conference yesterday.
More than 600 vintners, viticulturists, trades people and suppliers are at the three-day conference being held at the Marlborough Convention Centre this week.
The sell-out event was the industry's largest, and included the Bragato dinner tonight, when the Moore Stephens Young Viticulturist of the year and the Bragato Wine Award trophy winners would be announced.
Mr Smith said it was a "great honour" to be recognised alongside other recipients including Neudorf founder Tim Finn, Montana founder Frank Yukich and the late George Mazuran, one of New Zealand's wine pioneers.
"It's a wonderful industry to be involved with, and I've had a lot of support from some very good people," he said.
Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich was also added to the ranks, although he was not at the conference to receive his medal.
New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the roll of fellows began in 1982, to recognise individuals of influence within the industry.
Mr Smith, who has filled leading roles with Wine Marlborough, Marlborough Grape Growers, New Zealand Grape Growers Council and New Zealand Winegrowers, was part of a group of wine identities who helped establish New Zealand Winegrowers.
"There is so much good will on both sides of the industry . . . when Winegrowers eventually formed in 2002, it was one of the most important steps for the industry - apart from planting grapes," he said.
Stepping away from his official industry roles last year helped him realise the close-knit community of people involved in the industry was behind its great success.
"The connection from the market to the vineyard and winery is very short, and it's vital that it remains short and remains open," he said.
"In most industries you don't have that connection, so that vital information from the consumer doesn't get back to the producer."
- © Fairfax NZ News