Where Has The Time Gone?
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WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?
May 1988. “Dear friends. The 1987 vintage is bottled and ready for release. Our licence has finally filtered through the bureaucratic pipeline and Gibbston Valley is on the map as New Zealand’s newest label.”
So began my first Gibbston Valley newsletter marking the release of Central Otago’s first commercial vintage in modern times. The “friends” were just about everybody I knew or had even a passing acquaintance with. A first vintage, I tried to persuade them, was very significant, especially when it was from a new vineyard in a new region.
It seems I had some friends back then because 28 of them responded to that first mailout, bless them, taking a total of 25 cases, a third of the year’s production. In the next few months we sold a further 36 cases to retail and restaurant outlets in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown and I could claim that a few people in both the North and South Islands had tasted wines from Central Otago for the first time.
The wines may not have been great but that first tiny trickle from Gibbston Valley kick-started the Central Otago wine industry, though few of us would have predicted what was to come. Fast forward 30 years and the region’s wines are in outlets and restaurant lists from the North Cape to Bluff and consumers and critics in more than 40 countries recognize Central Otago Pinot Noir as some of the finest in the world.
For most of those years Gibbston Valley Wines has been one of New Zealand’s leading Pinot producers winning just about every international trophy there is and setting standards for consistency and quality. The company’s production has grown from 75 cases to around 20,000 and its portfolio of excellent wines range from vintage Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine to stunning single vineyard expressions of Pinot Noir and white wines from vineyards in Gibbston and Bendigo.
Between 1987 and 2017 the region has grown from just four producers and about 10 hectares of grapes to over 120 producers and a total of nearly 2,000 ha planted in vines, making Central Otago the country’s third largest region.
Thirty years is a mere blink in the history of wine and for those of us who have been part of the story since the beginning in Central Otago, it’s a moment to savour. Much of my pleasure has come from watching what the current ownership and management of GVW has achieved in recent years and my admiration for the wines produced by a dedicated and very talented winemaking team.
The vines have put their roots deep into the rocky soils of Central Otago in the past 30 years and so have those of us who have worked with them. We’ve been given a glimpse of the greatness possible. Here’s a toast to the exciting future that lies ahead!
Founder Gibbston Valley Wines Ltd