My district; Marlborough is the major wine-producing region of New Zealand, producing quality mainly white wine, though there is some quality reds produced here too.
The very first few grape vines were planted for wine by Montana’s Winery in 1977, Hunter’s Winery also planted a small number of vines, and their Winery started producing small quantities of wine in 1983. Montana's wineyard.
Not very long ago, by any means, from these small beginnings Marlborough’s Wine Industry started. Now it could be said Marlborough’s wine industry is on a roll! The whole district oozes prosperity and growth, with a mind boggling 3 million vines being planted this year, more than 12,000 hectares of land under grapes! Wine being produced by 104 known wineries in the district. Its hard to keep up with all the new development, new wineries are being planned and built, some huge productions that will nearly double the production of wine; mainly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, some Chardonnay and Shiraz.
A panarama of the wairau plains of Marlborough.
The special climate we enjoy in this region is perfect for producing the crisp clean fruity tastes in these wines, our hot day temperature and the cold nights plus the sheltered stony ground are the key to this. Though we are very subject to adverse weather, we do often get hard late frosts, in October just when the leaves and small fruiting buds are starting to immerge from the bare vines, these are very vulnerable to the intense cold, so to protect these tender growths up to, 100 helicopters to take to the air and hover over the vineyards most of the night, displacing the cold air and bringing down the warmer air to ground level. Some vineyard owners use a type of windmill that spins large rotors high above the vines, others light smoky oil burners to attempt to keep the frost off the new growth, all of these methods are moderately successful, especially the helicopters – but ofcause these are by far the most expensive. However there is much money to be made from the wine, even though it is estimated to cost an average of $40,000 to develop a vineyard in Marlborough, (this is only for the cost of plants, posts and training wires, preparing the land and hand planting, not for the cost of land or for and buildings required,) a substantial investment, which ofcause is very good for all facets of Marlborough industry, the economic benefits spill over into many trades and retail sectors in the districts, including tourism, right down to the taxi business!
People come to Marlborough from either overseas or from the cities bringing with them a small fortune, which they then proceed to spend on buying land developing a vineyard and building a very up-market million dollar plus mansion of a home; all very good for the economy of all Marlborough. Confidence emanates from the region as more and more demand for quality wine grows throughout the world not just in New Zealand.
One of the most important men in our district, Peter Yealands, a local multi- millionaire businessman who is now grape grower/winemaker has the largest, independently owned, acreage of land under grapes in New Zealand and maybe in Australia too, he mainly grows his grapes in the Seddon district of Marlborough. His soon to be opened Winery is a vast building, one of the largest in New Zealand, looks splendid and will be a great asset to the district. He is the other Grandparent to our young grand daughter Stephanie, so I suppose that we are almost related!
More than $400 million of wine has been exported from this region!
Another aspect to the industry is all the manpower required to keep it all growing healthily. Thousands of men and women from all around the world are brought to Marlborough to assist with the planting, training and pruning of the vines, also this manpower assist with the picking of the top quality grapes. Mainly the harvest is done by mechanical means, only the very best are hand picked. This large migrant labour force, put tremendous pressure on the accommodations in the district, many new backpacker type buildings are operating to accommodate them, boarding houses are springing up all around the district, plus many choose to rent their own homes and share expenses with several others. This means there are less rental houses available to local people.
It is thought that there are as many as 2500 foreign workers employed by the wineyards from about 15 different countries maybe more.
The diverse mixture of nationals, creeds, cultures, religions and colours make Blenheim streets alive and vibrant with many languages and brings many new festivals, foods and manners of dress to enrich the lives of everyone living here. I feel very fortunate to be living here at this time.