The daddy of all vines gives rise to sauvignon blanc in New Zealand

Sauvignon blanc makes up 86 per cent of all wine produced in Marlborough. (File photo)

Sauvignon blanc makes up 86 per cent of all wine produced in Marlborough. (File photo)

Ahead of the '16 Days of Sauvignon' celebrations, reporter Oliver Lewis looks at the history of the grape variety that put Marlborough, and New Zealand, wine on the map.

It was the vine that helped launch a billion dollar industry, a single sauvignon blanc plant imported from California that set New Zealand wine on its course towards global acclaim.

And it has a name: TK05196, TK after Te Kauwhata in the Waikato, where the Government used to run a viticultural research centre importing and trialling new grape varieties.

Sauvignon blanc is the driving force behind New Zealand's thriving wine export market. (File photo).

Sauvignon blanc is the driving force behind New Zealand's thriving wine export market. (File photo).

This one vine spawned the clones that ended up populating early vineyards near Auckland and eventually in Marlborough, which became the new spiritual home of the variety here.

All hail the mighty Marlborough sauvignon blanc
Marlborough celebrates International Sauvignon Blanc Day
Marlborough sauvignon blanc celebration 'long overdue'
New Zealand's new sauvignon blancs serve up radical new flavours

Terry Dunleavy, a former chief executive of the Wine Institute of New Zealand, which became New Zealand Winegrowers, said TK05196 probably arrived in New Zealand in 1970.

Hunter's Wines managing director Jane Hunter (File photo).

Hunter's Wines managing director Jane Hunter (File photo).

The vine was brought to New Zealand by government viticulturist Frank Berrysmith, who imported a number of vines from the Davis campus at the University of California.

Cuttings from the vine were taken by Joe Corban and planted in a trial vineyard north of Auckland, which caught the attention of Ross Spence, one of the founders of the wine company Matua.

For Marlborough news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter Marlborough Express Daily.

Allan Scott Family Winemakers founder Allan Scott in one of his Marlborough vineyards. (File photo).

Allan Scott Family Winemakers founder Allan Scott in one of his Marlborough vineyards. (File photo).

He had already taken cuttings from a different sauvignon blanc vine, but it was the one he obtained from Corban that allowed him to plant out his Waimauku block, in the Rodney district of Auckland.

Ad Feedback

These vines were used to make the first commercial run of sauvignon blanc in New Zealand, released in 1974. And it was those vines that were propagated by Montana to plant in Marlborough in 1975.

But it was not until the mid-1980s that Marlborough sauvignon blanc really made its mark, when Irishman Ernie Hunter of Hunter's Wines claimed a major award in London for their oak-aged sauvignon.

Hunter's Wines managing director Jane Hunter said the gold medal win at the prestigious Sunday Times Vintage Festival in 1986 provoked astonishment at the time, that New Zealand could produce quality wines.

"It certainly got a huge amount of publicity because it was such an upset, no-one would have expected it of a New Zealand wine, most people didn't realise New Zealand made wine then," she said.

When Jane Hunter arrived in 1983 to take a job as a viticulturist with Montana, she said there was only about 12 hectares of sauvignon blanc - Germanic varieties like muller-thurgau were more widely planted.

A government initiative in 1985 where growers were paid to pull out vines helped accelerate the growth of sauvignon blanc, she said.

"Overnight people pulled out muller-thurgau and planted sauvignon. They could see from the few areas that were being grown that it was well suited to the region.

"But you could never have imagined that it would mushroom like this, it's just grown beyond anything that anyone involved in those first stages would have ever thought it would."

Allan Scott Family Winemakers founder Allan Scott, who worked for Montana as a vineyard manager in the 1970s, described the region as the New World home of sauvignon blanc, a variety that originated in France.

"It wasn't until the 1980s that it became much more popular. It was the right variety for the right time, the world changed, the food scene changed, people were more interested in wines with fruity characteristics," he said.

International Sauvignon Blanc Day

Wine Marlborough has organised 16 days of sauvignon blanc celebrations leading up to International Sauvignon Blanc Day on May 5. This included tastings, wine tours and themed offerings at restaurants and bars.

Marketing and communications co-ordinator Harriet Wadworth said it was a way of extending the celebrations to the wider community, instead of it being confined to the wine industry.

Over the course of the celebrations, there was 27 different mini-events. Wine Marlborough was setting up its Sauvignon HQ outside Scotch Wine Bar, in Bythell Place, which was being run from a converted shipping container from April 27 to May 5.

General manager Marcus Pickens said he hoped the extended celebrations would be taken up by other regions in New Zealand next year, as a way to recognise both domestic and internationally produced sauvignon blanc.

"The goal of '16 Days of Sauvignon' and International Sauvignon Blanc Day in Marlborough is to get everyone involved in the celebrations and tell the world how great our region is," Pickens said.

Figures from New Zealand Winegrowers showed nationwide there was about 21,000 hectares of vineyards planted in sauvignon blanc in 2016. 

There was no Marlborough breakdown available, but the variety accounted for about 86 per cent of all wine produced in the region, which had a total vineyard space of about 24,000 hectares.

For more information visit

 - The Marlborough Express


Ad Feedback
special offers

Kiwi wing will 'go extra mile for England'

Auckland-born Denny Solomona is set for his England rugby debut after playing rugby league for Samoa.

He was born in NZ, played rugby league for Samoa, but Denny Solomona will run through brick walls for Eddie Jones' England.

Stream pollution prompts protest

Residents, ecologists and local board members protest against development, April 24.

The developers are creating this horrendous breeding ground for God-only-knows-what to grow

Fire causes 'substantial damage'

A large house fire near Warkworth has destroyed the rural property.

Occupants of the burning house - near Warkworth, north of Auckland - fled and are safe.

Bus crash driver in court

Talakai Aholelei appears at the Manukau District Court on Wednesday.

Talakai Aholelei, charged with causing deaths of three people in Christmas Eve bus crash, has appeared in court.


OBU, Norths top Swindale

Tawa's Pepesana Patafilo tries to break clear of the Johnsonville defence on Tuesday.

Two big wins for the leaders of the Swindale Shield on Anzac Day.

Tackling pre-loading

Police on Wellington's Blair St. Authorities are planning to close Blair and Allen streets on weekend nights to traffic ...

The boozing is so bad in central Wellington, two streets may need closing at weekends.

Mystery behind bright sky light video

The dashcam captured the bright light on Wellington's Featherston St.

People report seeing a meteor-like bright light shoot across the sky.

Missing hunter found

Search and rescue operation on Mt Taranaki.

A search team airlifted the 62-year-old man unharmed from the Kaweka Ranges.


BMW somersaults into a ditch

Antony Gough crashed his car into a ditch on Tuesday afternoon.

"The car nose felt like we were in a washing machine," developer Antony Gough says.

Deaths 'devastating'

Sharwan Chand and Conor Smith.

Pair were "experienced, competent" climbers, making their deaths in Fiordland even more shocking, friends say.

Ex-rest-home now student digs

The land holding of a Kirkwood Ave, Christchurch former retirement care turned student hostel which has sold to an ...

A sure income stream from Canterbury University proved attractive to bidders.

More cafe casualties in Chch video

17032015. 123rf.
 We Are Closed Sign

apologize, art, artwork, banner, business, cartoon, closed, color, design, dirty, ...

High rents, road works, more competition and lack of patrons creating trouble for some outlets.


Lotto winner's delayed satisfaction

A strike winner waited two months before checking winning ticket (file photo).

Checking her ticket always slipped her mind. When she finally did, she burst into tears.

Crash scene a 'mess'

The crash scene at the intersection of Cross and Cameron roads.

One person is dead and two are injured after a serious crash near Morrinsville.

Toy maker out of play

Pioneer Wooden Toys owner Bryan Miller had more than $20,000 worth of toys stolen from his Waiuku workshop.

Franklin toy maker's business on hold after thieves steal $20,000 worth of tools.

Period pain not a female only gig

'Mum kept me home' – Kiwi girls missing school because they can't afford sanitary products

OPINION: Any man who claims he has not suffered is either genuinely celibate or has not been married long enough, Tom O'Connor writes.


Former farming flatmates face off

James Lawn (right) came out on top of the Young Farmer regional competition.

Former flatmates to battle it out in the national Young Farmer of the Year competition.

Anzac Day in Waitara

The Anzac Day Parade in Waitara before the civic service.

The weather was perfect for the Anzac Day services held around the mountain on Tuesday.

Teen to take on snooker's best

New Plymouth's Mario Hildred, 16, in preparing to take on the world's best in China later this year.

"Obviously I feel a lot of pressure when I get a high break to keep going to get more."

Missing Taranaki man

Jared Shaun McLean has not been heard from since Saturday.

"We all are actually worried, it's just unlike him to do this."


Western Front tunnelling visit

In the lead-up to the Western Front Anzac Day commemorations, Corporal Tainui Woodmass visits a sculpture at Arras, ...

Shannon man travels to other side of the world to remember the fallen.

Woman badly hurt

Police are at the scene of a crash in Dannevirke, where a motorcycle hit an elderly woman.

An elderly woman is in a critical condition after being hit by a motorcycle in Dannevirke.

Feeling the burn

Rob Kent feels the burn at the 2016 Palmerston North heat of the NZ Chilli Eating Champs. He is returning to defend his ...

Hot food fanatics prepare their guts for the spiciest competition in the land.

The military child

Military families should take the chance Anzac Day presents to give themselves a pat on the back.

COLD COFFEE: As part of a military family, I see first-hand the effects our lifestyle has on family.


Neglected, relocated and restored

Vanessa Hatton at her historic home 'Rostrevor' in Ngatomoti which she is putting on ...

One of Nelson's oldest homes has been lovingly restored and is now on the market.

Crews under pressure

The volume of trucks and heavy goods vehicles passing through Murchison has surged over the past six months.

Murchison volunteers respond to year's worth of crash call-outs in just four months.

Mystery behind bright sky light video

Stephen Moore's dashcam captured a bright light shoot across the Wellington sky.

People in Nelson report seeing a meteor-like bright light shoot across the sky.

Joint landfill gets go-ahead

A empty rubbish truck leaves the York Valley Landfill.

A plan for Nelson and Tasman councils to jointly operate the region's landfills has been given the green light.


I just want to go home

Amberley Rest Home manager Tracey Dimmock-Rump and 83-year-old Celia Wigmore, who has been without a place to call home ...

Injured and shipped out after the earthquake, finding a place to call home has been hard for this 83-year-old.

Race numbers swell

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon director Chris Shaw among the vines, in Marlborough.

The quake and closure of SH1 couldn't trip up Marlborough's biggest running race, which has seen a surge in numbers.

First building uncovered?

Archaeologist Reg Nichol with a doll's leg and blue, enamel cup he found during excavations for Blenheim's new riverside ...

An archaeologist has found the burned remains of what could be Blenheim's first building, a gin palace and general store.

Quake doesn't stop me

Bill Lonsdale, left, and Lesa B'do have been cut off from one another by the November 14 earthquake.

Cut off from Kaikoura, Bill Lonsdale takes a plane, a car and a boat to see his love.

South Canterbury

The climb of his life

Joe Sharp is climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for mental health.

Joe Sharp is preparing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to raise funds for mental health.

Honouring sacrifice

War veterans march on Memorial Ave towards the cenotaph at the Anzac Dawn Service in Timaru.

A crowd of a few hundred stood at the cenotaph in Timaru to commemorate Anzac Day.

Raising awareness 

Volunteer firefighter and former NZ Army infantryman  Maaka Mckinney is escorted into Timaru from Waimate by Timaru ...

Maaka McKinney is raising awareness for depression among first responders.

New book on war hero

Tom O'Connor has published a book on Waimate war hero Eric Batchelor.

The life of one of New Zealand's most decorated soldiers has been detailed in new book.


Climbers' deaths 'devastating'

Sharwan Chand and Conor Smith.

Conor Smith and Sarwan Chand were "experienced, competent" climbers, making their deaths in Fiordland even more shocking, friends say.

One dead in shooting

The Otepuni Ave address where a shooting took place in Invercargill on Tuesday night.

Two people shot on Tuesday night in Invercargill, as neighbours report seeing a man "up to no good".

50-year-old receipt returned

Sue Samson with the 50-year-old receipt left in the Winton Night 'n Day store on April 6.

They'd kept their honeymoon receipt for five decades. So when a shopkeeper found it, she knew she had to return it.

Nasa balloon seen from Chch

Ashley Marles managed to photography the balloon with his own observatory.

That "bright stationary object" is headed for outer space - with an Anzac poppy in tow.

Ad Feedback