A good wine is like perfume in a bottle and it is this mantra that helps guide us when we search the world over for rare wines to stock in our shops. Today New Zealand is a premier vine growing region despite it being a relative newcomer to the world of wine. This region boasts a variety of climates that helps craft wines of great elegance and structure, with international grape varieties such as pinot noir, syrah, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and of course sauvignon blanc.
What most people don’t understand is how big the islands actually are, to put things into perspective they length is roughly equivalent to the distance of Morocco to Pairs. You can only imagine the huge geographical differences that can take place, also adding the cool maritime climate and the fact that it is closer to Antarctica than Australia.
A history of the Islands wine heritage
Samuel Marsden, an Anglican missionary, made the first recorded planting of grapevines at the Bay of Islands in 1819. The earliest recorded winemaker was Scotsman James Busby, appointed the first British Resident in New Zealand. When the French explorer, Dumont d’Urville, visited Busby at Waitangi in 1840, he was given “a light white wine, very sparkling and delicious to taste…”
French priests and peasants, Hawke’s Bay pastoralists, Croatian gum-diggers and others preserved the flame ignited by Busby throughout the 19th century. But the assaults of oidium (powdery mildew), the vine-destroying phylloxera aphid, and prohibitionist zealots together ensured that the early dreams of a flourishing antipodean industry faded.
The 1920s and ‘30s witnessed gradual but unspectacular growth. The industry boomed during the Second World War – when duties were raised on imported wines – and expansion continued. During the 1950s and ‘60s, due to a string of legislative concessions by successive governments, including major reductions in the minimum amounts of wine that could be sold by winemakers, approval for more retail outlets, and the licensing of restaurants to sell wine in 1960.
An outstanding feature of the 1960s and 1970s was heavy investment by overseas companies, Australian and American. The 1970s also brought an overall improvement in wine quality and heavy emphasis on the production of light, fruity, slightly sweet whites, based on the heavy-cropping variety, muller-thurgau.
In recent decades, most Kiwi drinkers have developed a taste for fully dry styles, made from such classic varieties as sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir, which now dominate the industry’s output. Wine has played a key role in the emergence of the country’s thriving café culture.
New Zealand wineries originally set out to serve the small domestic market, operating within a highly regulated economy. But in 1985 the government moved to speed up the removal of barriers against overseas bottles, allowing Australian producers to contest the New Zealand market on an equal footing by 1990.
Spurred into action by their heavy loss of domestic market share, the winemakers launched a sustained export drive. The value of New Zealand’s exports has skyrocketed from $NZ18 million in 1990, to a forecasted rise to $2 billion by 2020.
New wine companies are mushrooming, from Northland to Central Otago. Thirty years ago, there were fewer than 100 New Zealand wineries; today the ranks have swollen to over 670. The industry is forever abuzz with the excitement of new companies, new faces, new labels.
Our New Brands
With family owned wineries such as Blank Canvas, Black Estate, Dry River & Man o war we are excited to offer you some great value for money wines ideal for the summer by the pool or for a bbq. Of course we also offer classics such as Cloudy bay and Ha Ha wines. So pop by our shop in Franks The Plaza, Sliema or in Franks, Bortex, Baystreet in St Julian’s to choose from a extensive selection of wines, spirits & cigars or visit our website and buy online. We also offer free delivery all over Malta & Gozo with purchases over 50 Euros.