Missionary Samuel Marsden planted New Zealand’s first grapes at Kerikeri in 1819. In the 1830s, James Busby made wine from his vineyard at Waitangi.
Some migrants came from countries that traditionally made and drank wine.
- French settlers planted vines at Akaroa.
- The Catholic Marist brothers, from France, made wine for church rituals. In 1851 they set up Mission Estate vineyard, which still produced wine in 2020.
- Lebanese migrant Assid Corban planted vineyards in 1902. His company, Corbans, became New Zealand’s largest winemaker.
- Dalmatians (people from Croatia) set up a number of vineyards in West Auckland, some of which became major wine producers.
- Spaniards and Germans also made wine.
From 1897, the government planted grapes and made wine on its experimental farm in the Waikato. Wine expert Romeo Bragato became the government viticulturalist (grape-growing scientist).
Controls on alcohol
The temperance movement pushed for stronger laws against alcohol. From 1908, alcohol sales were banned completely in some areas. Wine could not be sold in restaurants from 1917.
Later, laws were less restrictive, and more New Zealanders drank wine. More vineyards were planted from the 1960s, and wine exports began. Today, large amounts of wine are exported, and New Zealanders enjoy visiting wineries and going to wine festivals.
Over time, styles changed from fortified wines like sherry and port, to table wines – first made from Müller-Thurgau and cabernet sauvignon grapes. In the 1980s, sauvignon blanc wines won prizes in international wine shows. New Zealand pinot noir and chardonnay wines are also very good.
Most vineyards were around Auckland until the 1960s, when Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay also became wine-growing areas. Later, vineyards were planted in Marlborough (where most New Zealand vineyards are today), Wairarapa, and Central Otago – the world’s southernmost wine-growing region. The wine industry has expanded, and many areas that were once farmland now grow grapes.