Two centuries ago, on 25 September 1819, the Reverend Samuel Marsden planted the first grapevines in New Zealand beside the famous Stone Store in Kerikeri, Bay of Islands. It’s not known what varietal the vines were, though Syrah, a dark-skinned, full-bodied variety that does well in the moderate Northland climate, is the common guess.
Marsden’s first vines didn’t survive long – not because they were disinclined to the climate, but because they were eaten by goats – but their planting marked the beginning of one of New Zealand’s most important industries. Marsden himself foresaw this possibility, writing in his journal that, “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.”
To celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of New Zealand’s wine industry, this month the viticultural industry body New Zealand Wine is holding a series of events, including a full-day “sommit” of 16 of the world’s top sommeliers led by New Zealand’s Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, and Steven Wong, Master of Wine at The Landing.
On Tuesday 24 September, these wine masters will spend a beautiful day enjoying The Landing’s hospitality and panoramic coastal views while tasting superior wines selected to represent the regions of New Zealand. Included will be The Landing Wines’ 2015 Syrah, which was also enjoyed by President Barack Obama when he visited New Zealand.
The following day, the celebrations will move to the Stone Store at Kerikeri for a ceremonial replanting of Marsden’s original vines, and later the Treaty Ground at Waitangi, where guests will enjoy a dinner and wine tasting – and no doubt plenty of toasts to another 200 years of successful wine-growing in New Zealand.