A visit by wine writers from the USA, UK, Russia and Australia will help put Northland on the global wine tourism map, a Kerikeri winemaker says.
The nine writers, who were in New Zealand for a Sauvignon Blanc Symposium in Marlborough, spent two days based in Russell visiting wineries, sailing in the Bay of Islands and sampling local wines.
Rod McIvor, of Kerikeri's Marsden Estate, said it was the first time New Zealand Winegrowers had brought a group of international journalists to Northland.
The writers represented publications such as Forbes (with a circulation of 930,000), Mindfood, Martha Stewart online and Fodors, while others had large followings on Twitter and Instagram. Six were from the US and one each from Russia, UK and Australia.
"They're heavy hitters, they really do have quite a bit of influence. This puts us on the map as far as wine tourism goes," McIvor said.
The group flew directly to Kerikeri after arriving in New Zealand on January 24 and stayed two nights at the Duke of Marlborough in Russell. They were picked up by yacht from Russell wharf and given a tour of the Bay followed by a tasting of wines from all over Northland, from Mangawhai to Kaitaia, at The Landing on Purerua Peninsula.
The next day they were taken to Paroa Bay and Omata Estate near Russell and Kerikeri 's Marsden Estate before continuing their journey to Nelson.
McIvor said the national body was keen to promote Northland as a wine destination because it realised the industry needed diversity and because the region was already a well-established tourist hotspot.
People who came to New Zealand for wine tourism stayed longer and spent more than other tourists, he said.
Peter Jones, New Zealand Winegrowers' Northland chairman, said he was encouraged by the increasing interest in Northland wines.
This year was the bicentennial of the first planting of grapevines in New Zealand — by Samuel Marsden in Kerikeri in 1819 — which was a great opportunity to showcase the region nationally and internationally.
Meanwhile, winegrowers say the dry summer so far means 2019 is shaping up to be a vintage year. Harvesting is due to start in about 10 days' time.
The profile of Northland-made wine is likely to be further bolstered by businessman and philanthropist Sir Owen Glenn, who is planting a new vineyard at Wiroa Station on the Purerua Peninsula, in the northern Bay of Islands.