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Pioneer of NZ Sauvignon Blanc Stands Down

Media release – December 6, 2006

Marlborough winery board farewells the pioneer of NZ sauvignon blanc Ross Spence

Marlborough winery Rapaura Vintners this week farewells from its board Ross Spence, the man responsible for bringing sauvignon blanc to New Zealand.

The Rapaura board meet in Blenheim on Thursday which ends Spence’s formal ties with the company. He has also stood down from his commitments to Matua Valley.

Spence was the first person to grow and produce sauvignon blanc in New Zealand with the first commercial wine produced in 1974.

He has arguably done more for New Zealand and its wine industry than anyone else, because sauvignon blanc established New Zealand’s reputation in the international premium wine market.

``I was interested in aromatic varieties when I returned to New Zealand after going to the University of Fresno in California to study oenology and viticulture,’’ Spence said today.

``I trialled a few varieties that had impressed me in California and sauvignon blanc was one that was a hit producing quite aggressive varietal characters.

``I have personally planted some new and interesting red varieties and am looking forward to making wines from them vintage 2007.

``It is probably unfortunate that sauvignon blanc has been so successful as there has been a reluctance to seek new varieties that will provide an equally exciting future to sauvignon blanc.’’

Spence said he loved the challenge and experience being involved with Rapaura since its inception.

He hoped that the future of the NZ wine industry would not have to rely only on sauvignon blanc and that winemakers would consider trialing some new varieties to New Zealand.

Ross bows out after a long and happy illustrious career in NZ’s wine industry. He was a foundation member of the New Zealand Grapegrowers Council and has been a senior wine judge at the Royal Easter Show and Air New Zealand Wine Competitions for years.

He was chairman of the New Zealand Wine Institute Board 1997 - 1999, deputy chairman 1990 - 1996, and a board member for many years before that.

Ross was awarded the QSO for services to the New Zealand wine industry in June 2000.

Ross first planted sauvignon blanc vines in his Matua Road vineyard in Kumeu, north of Auckland, in the early 1970s.
He still lives in Matua Road.

Rapaura is a major player in the Marlborough wine industry, a region that produces 62 percent of New Zealand’s wine.

They are one of Marlborough's largest wineries either making and/or bottling Marlborough wines for many labels, in addition to the shareholders’ brands - Babich, Goldwater, Vavasour, Shingle Peak and Matua Valley.

Premium New Zealand brands such as Nautilus, Twin Islands, Sacred Hill, Clifford Bay, Kathy Lynskey to name but a few, are included in the client list that Rapaura is proud to service.

Established in 1995, Rapaura was the first contract winery in New Zealand offering a full range of winemaking, bottling and warehousing services and now operates at their re-developed former Corbans Stoneleigh Winery on Jacksons Road, in the heart of Marlborough’s wine country.


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