These days the NZ wine industry contributes more than $1.8 billion in export earnings to the economy, and has an international reputation for producing some of the best, most diverse and sustainable wines in the world. And, unlike many countries, NZ can state quite categorically that it all began on September 25, 1819.

That was the day Rev Samuel Marsden, Chaplain to New South Wales (1765-1838), planted a vine in the rich grounds of Kerikeri's Stone Store.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries a significant number of European immigrants arrived in NZ and set up vineyards in various regions, helping to establish an industry that today boasts more than 700 wineries and more than 600 grape growers.

Since the 1990s there has been a significant expansion in the grape varieties grown around the country, according to New Zealand Winegrowers. Sauvignon Blanc is now the most widely planted, accounting for 76 per cent of total production, followed by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And more than 98 per cent of NZ's vineyard producing area is Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) certified, unmatched by any other voluntary scheme worldwide.


Samuel Marsden has not been forgotten though. New Zealand Winegrowers plans to mark the 200th anniversary of his planting of the first vine with an industry event in Northland, including a ceremonial replanting at the Stone Store, followed by a regional wine tasting and dinner on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

In his diary, Marsden prophesied, "New Zealand promises to be very favourable to the vine, as far as I can judge at present of the nature of the soil and climate. Should the vine succeed, it will prove of vast importance in this part of the globe."

His prediction, according to NZ Winegrowers, had been brilliantly fulfilled.

Credit for producing the first wine in NZ goes to British Resident James Busby, who lived in what is now the Treaty House at Waitangi, in the 1830s. Naval officer and explorer Jules Dumont D'Urville visited in 1840, and was disappointed to find Busby wasn't home, but tasted a wine made by him.

Back aboard his ship, Astrolabe, Dumont D'Urville wrote the first New Zealand wine review in his journal: "With great pleasure I agreed to taste the product of the vineyard that I had just seen. I was given a light white wine, very sparkling, and delicious to taste, which I enjoyed very much."