Valley of vineyards
Neighbour to Australia and comprised of two main islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s sweeping mountains and beautiful beaches make it the dream destination for many aspiring travellers. A colourful history renders the country with a mixture of heritage; its famous indigenous Maori culture remains prevalent through its language and cultural tradition. And for many visitors, the promise of what New Zealand’s natural lands yield is reason enough to spend sunshine-filled days in one of its many vineyards.
New Zealand wine has long been available in UK supermarkets and is among the most popular in Europe and the US. Producing favoured varieties such as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, the fruits of New Zealand vineyard cultivation reflect the diverse and changeable aspects of the country’s climate. Despite its small size, the Wairarapa Valley is one of the most prolific.
Yet, to many domestic wine-drinkers and visitors the wine-producing Wairarapa Valley remains unknowable. Leading wine professionals in the region hope a name change, to Wellington Wine Country, will solidify the region’s importance in New Zealand wine making and generate further tourism in the area.
Until now, marketing efforts of vine growers and wine makers in what was previously known as the Wairarapa Valley were not streamlined and included wine from vines grown in the areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton. With New Zealand wine sold in up to 100 countries and as far afield as the UK, the Wellington Wine Country name is strategically important to its export economy and tourist economy alike. And, despite being the smallest recognised wine-producing region in New Zealand, the quality grapes produced ensures Wellington Wine Country may soon become a metonym for good quality New Zealand wine.
Speaking to online beverage magazine, the Drinks Business, Helen Masters, winemaker at Ata Rangi in Martinborough, says, “Collectively people often know Martinborough but they don’t understand Wairarapa. We need people to understand that these are a villages within a greater region.”
“You won’t see us all over the shelves in the supermarkets because there’s just not that volume going overseas. We have to be working collectively if we are going to really establish and keep growing as a region.”
The Wellington Wine Country name is not only more succinct; it ties New Zealand’s wine heritage with more contemporary place name awareness. By connecting the former Wairapapa Valley area to the Wellington city brand, says Nicola Belsham, chair of Wellington Wine Country Limited, the region will benefit from the recognition enjoyed by New Zealand’s capital city. The rebrand also groups together the Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton under one place brand, clearing up confusion among buyers.
For the more intrepid among New Zealand’s explorers, mountain ranges and riverbeds offers an unending supply of activity. But for people content to sit back and relax, with a glass of the highest quality wine, the newly-branded Wellington Wine Country is the place to be.