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The New Zealand Story

Next week, Friday 7th, we will be celebrating the wonderful wines of New Zealand with a virtual ZOOM tasting. Details can be seen on the What`s On page of our website if you would like to join us www.thewinecentre.co.uk.  The evening aside, we will be promoting New Zealand and its wines for the whole of May, one way and another, with a special focus on Sauvignon Blanc wines which represent by far New Zealand`s greatest export.  If you think one SB is like any other, you are mistaken!  We will also be promoting NZ`s diversity in respect of wines produced from other grape varieties, starting with the most important red wine varietal, Pinot Noir. ALL THIS, in the month ahead. Today, by way of brief introduction, I thought I would take readers back to NZ`s first wine beginnings, when, in 1819, a Brit called Samuel Marsden, a priest of the Church of England in Australia, gifted New Zealanders with “Vitis Labrusca” vines, as well as Christianity.  The wine, fortified and sweetened, was mostly used for sacramental purposes. It was not until 1840 that “Vitis Vinifera” vines arrived in NZ, courtesy of the earliest French settlers, these being a new species of European vine which yielded better quality wines, with Sauvignon Blanc among them. But then, in 1885, they were all wiped out by Phylloxera, the same sap-sucking aphid which destroyed European vines thirty years earlier. Eventually the vines were replanted on American Phylloxera-resistant rootstock, but a generation was lost, and then prohibition lobbyists did their bit to hold back the wine industry another fifty years. It was not until the 1970`s that quality wine production started again in earnest, just as the motherland cut the umbilical cord, setting her colony adrift.  At the time 50% of NZ`s exports were to UK, so it was yet another big setback. Nonetheless, sheep farming in Marlborough was steadily replaced with viticulture and by 1985 one European wine critic cited Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc as being World`s Best Sauvignon. New Zealand, in wine terms, was about to take on the world.

 

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