History

Northland is the original New Zealand winegrowing region. Samuel Marsden is considered to be the first person to push grapevine cuttings into the fertile soil of Aotearoa, planting at the Kerikeri mission station in 1819. While by all accounts these vines flourished in the warm climes of the Bay of Islands, it wasn’t until nearly twenty years later that New Zealand’s first wine was produced by James Busby at his Waitangi residence.

Throughout the 19th century several more vineyards were established throughout Northland, from Kaipara and Mangawhai in the south of the region, to Hokianga and Whangaroa further north. But while the mostly British colonists began the story of New Zealand wine, it was another wave of immigrants, just before the turn of the century, that took it to the next level.

Once again, Northland was at the centre of New Zealand wine history as Dalmatian migrants planted the seeds of the modern industry in the kauri gumfields of the Far North. Many of these hardy settlers later moved south to Auckland, finding their fortune in the big city, some becoming among the most respected names in the New Zealand wine industry. In fact, the oldest Northland winery still operating today was established by one of these Dalmatian migrants. Continental Wines which later became Longview Estate, was planted overlooking the Whangarei harbour in 1964 by Mate Vuletich.

Twenty years later Okahu Estate was established on a north facing slope of sandy loam soil just west of Kaitaia, establishing a blueprint for the production of quality table wine in Northland, with Syrah and Chardonnay particularly successful. From the early nineties onwards there has been a steady increase in the number of vineyards and wineries.

Some two hundred years on from Samuel Marsden’s first plantings, more than twenty boutique producers offer their wines to the public. These are the modern day pioneers, and Northland wines now often taste success in national and international wine competitions. Each vineyard has a distinct story to tell, with unique wines that reflect the character of the land, the vines, and the people that work on them.

Discover the story of Northland wine by raising a glass at one of the many cellar doors, and taste the history of this special region.

 

References:
Cooper, Michael. The Wines and Vineyards of New Zealand. 1986. Hodder & Stoughton.
Scott, Dick. Pioneers of New Zealand Wine. 2002. Reed.