Geography of vines and wines from mid-century
The results of the Easter Show reveal much of the international and internal geography of the vine and wine around 1960 as well as clues to their future. Wines were named after those of other countries – Hock, Chablis, Claret, Burgundy, Sherry, Port, Vermouth, Sauterne. At least in the case of the ‘Sherry’ type, and especially dry sherry, the grapes were sometimes Palomino, the variety from which the genuine sherry from Jerez de la Frontera is made. By contrast, the ‘Hock’ type did not see many kilograms of
New Zealand wines circa I960: 38% proof Blackberry Nip from Glenvale Wines in Bayview, Hawke’s Bay; Sweet Sherry from Ballins Industries; and Spence’s Sparkleburg. Dick Scott Collection, Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, PH-2008-4
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Riesling nor the ‘Chablis’ type many pounds of Chardonnay. Riesling was not listed in the official data of the time, although Riesling- Sylvaner (Muller Thurgau) was. Ministry of Agriculture data for 1960 listed 6.5 acres of Pinot Chardonnay (as it was then called in New Zealand) compared with 107 acres of the hybrid Baco 22A.
A similar pattern was revealed in the reds. The dominance of Anglo settlers and thinking is evident in naming the two red wine classes ‘Claret’ type and ‘Burgundy’. But just 16 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 of Malbec and 6.5 of Merlot – the Claret or Bordeaux varieties – are recorded in 1960, predominantly in Hawke’s Bay. At the time, Albany Surprise (the New Zealand variant of the American table grape Concord) was the most common red variety with 98 acres being used for wine. Paul Groshek named his popular, dry red table wine – Albonez – after it. The hybrid Seibel 5455 is second among the reds with 68 acres. Both of these varieties were undoubtedly present in some of the wines of the red wine classes named ‘Claret’ type and ‘Burgundy’. In fact, many red table wines were made entirely from these hybrid varieties.
While the New Zealand table wines judged at the 1958 Easter Show drew on European precedents for the names, the grapes grown had drifted far from the classical varieties that produced the major wines of France, Spain, or Italy. A few examples of classical varieties continued to be cultivated, such as the Spanish grape Palomino, but these also found their way into the popular sweet and fortified sherries and ports of the day. This pattern in New Zealand’s grape production was shaped by the two major wine regions of the time – West Auckland and Hawke’s Bay. Contrasts between these two winegrowing regions are not so obvious from the results of the awards, but they were considerable.