In 1986, an “unknown New Zealander” came to the attention of the world after winning the top prize at the Sunday Time Vintage Festival. At first this was thought to be simply a fluke. But then it happened again the following year, then the year after that, and so on. What was this fundamentally foreign object? Well, it was a barrel aged Sauvingon Blanc. A wine familiar but not common among the wine growers of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. However, this wine didn’t even originate from this Hemisphere, let alone Europe. It was from a little known region called Marlborough, located in the north of the South Island of New Zealand. The producer? A pioneering estate called Hunter’s, who are now one of the most famed and awarded wine producers in New Zealand. But it wasn’t easy.
In 1979, Irishman Ernie Hunter arrived in New Zealand and proceeded over the coming years to purchase land in Blenheim. At this stage agricultural land was primarily used to grow barley and farm sheep. Ernie saw the potential for grape growing so planted several aromatic varieties – Riesling, Gewurztraminer – as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Not a bad decision! Ernie met Jane, National Viticulturist at Montana Wines, in Blenheim, with the pair marrying in 1984. They formed a formidable partnership that would take Hunter’s to the world stage. Tragically, less than five years after producing the first six award winning wines, Ernie was killed in a motorcycle accident. Jane, a talented viticulturist, took the reins amid turmoil, with an intent and drive to make Hunter’s the best New Zealand had to offer.
In over thirty years, Jane has propelled Hunter’s to numerous awards and international reputation which has helped Marlborough be known to the world as a region of high quality wine production. Undoubtedly, if there were a royal family in New Zealand for wine, Jane would without question be queen. Pictured above is Jane receiving the inaugural Women in Wine trophy ad the International Wine and Spirits awards in London in 2003. Exactly 25 years after taking over managing Hunter’s Wines Jane was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to viticulture.
Laytons and Jeroboams have proudly been importing Hunter’s wine into the UK for nearly two decades. During that time the quality has only risen higher and higher. There were certainly difficult times: when New Zealand wines were unfamiliar to the traditional palates of the UK population, and when screwcaps were derided. Yet, Hunter’s have helped shape the new wine drinking landscape of the world and our most celebrated agency.
Read more about the Hunter’s story on their website: hunters.co.nz