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Celebrating 30 Vintages of Montana Sauvignon Blanc

7 March 2009 Media Release

Celebrating 30 Vintages of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc


“Wines from here will become world famous”
– Frank Yukich, Montana Wines founder


Prime Minister John Key plants a new vine

Montana New Zealand has raised a toast to the 30th vintage of its internationally acclaimed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the unveiling of a special monument at its iconic Brancott Estate Vineyard in Blenheim on March 6.

In 1979, the same year that Rob Muldoon’s Government moved into the Beehive and introduced carless days, New Zealanders enjoyed the first taste of a wine variety which was to take the world by storm.

Montana founder Frank Yukich’s prophetic words “Wines from here will become world famous”, uttered at the planting of the first commercial grapes in Marlborough six years earlier, have become embedded in the region’s history and wine industry folklore.

Montana New Zealand’s chief winemaker Jeff Clarke said the release of Montana’s first vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1979 was the beginning of a phenomenon which has not only placed New Zealand firmly on the international map but has also gone on to become the basis for the New Zealand wine industry’s world-wide reputation.

“The first encounter many people have with New Zealand is through our wine and more people discover our country through Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc than through any other producer.”

At the ceremony in Blenheim, Prime Minister John Key joined Yukich to unveil a monument which immortalises the Montana founder and the pioneering steps Montana took in the 1970s.

Yukich paid tribute to Wayne Thomas, Montana’s former Viticultural Manager, and other original Blenheim staff who identified the potential of Marlborough as a grape growing region and worked tirelessly to see Yukich’s dream realised.

Mr Key planted a new vine to represent the next cycle of growth and development for New Zealand’s leading wine producer and exporter.

New Zealand Wine Growers CEO Philip Gregan said Montana was a true pioneer for the country’s burgeoning wine industry.

“In the early 1970s the conventional wisdom in the New Zealand wine industry was that wine grapes would not ripen in the South Island. Montana Wines disregarded that ‘wisdom’ and planted vines in Marlborough on a grand scale. Included in the first plantings was the very little known variety Sauvignon Blanc.”

He said that single decision ultimately proved to be one of the most momentous ever taken in the New Zealand wine industry.

“It brought together a place and variety that combined to produce one of the great global wine styles – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It was a decision that forever changed New Zealand wines’ place in the world.”

Jeff Clarke said when Montana started making Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc it was an unheard of variety from a little known country.

“It has been extraordinary to see how Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has evolved, from the very earliest vintage, to what has arguably become New Zealand’s signature wine style.”

Within 10 years of its first vintage, Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc had won the prestigious ‘Marquis de Goulaine trophy for best Sauvignon Blanc’ at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.

Today Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is exported to more than 30 countries with the United Kingdom being the largest market, followed by Australia and the United States.

Dignitaries and VIPs in attendance

New Zealand Winegrowers Association Stuart Smith
Philip Gregan

Former Employees Fabian Yukich, Frank Yukich

Local Council Mayor Alistair Sowman
Council CEO Andrew Besley
Former Council CEO Bob Pennington

International Gatekeepers Denis Dubourdieu (France)
Linda Murphy (USA)

Pernod Ricard (International) Representatives of Pernod Ricard include;
Thierry Billot, Deputy Managing Director,
Jean-Christophe Coutures, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer,
Jean Manuel Spriet, Managing Director Pernod Ricard UK
Mark O’Connell, Managing Director, Pernod Ricard Australia

Pernod Ricard New Zealand Fabian Partigliani, Managing Director, Pernod
Ricard New Zealand.
Jeff Clarke, Chief Winemaker,
Gerry Gregg, National Wineries Manager,
Patrick Materman, Montana Winemaker,
Local and Head Office representatives

Montana: Pioneering New Zealand’s Wine Capital and Signature Wine Style
“Celebrating 30 Vintages of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”

The story so far…

1961 Frank Yukich and his brother Mate set up Montana Wines Ltd. Within a few years, 106 hectares of vineyards are developed at Mangatangi (South of Auckland).

1973 Montana purchases 1620 hectares of farmland in Marlborough.

On July 16, Montana receives confirmation from the University of California that its land in Marlborough is suitable for successfully growing grapes of early maturing varieties (See Letter from University of California, July 16, 1973).

On August 24, Frank Yukich takes a huge gamble by planting the first commercial grapes in Marlborough.

Industry leaders and journalists from around the country look on as Mr Yukich and Montana company chairman Sir David Beattie plant a coin and sprinkle sparkling wine on the vines for good luck.

His emphatic words “Wines from here will become world famous” have become embedded in the region’s history (See Marlborough Express article, August 25, 1973).

1975 Marlborough’s first Sauvignon Blanc vines planted at Montana’s Brancott vineyard.

1976 Production facilities at Brancott Winery are completed and opened.

Late Emboldened by Montana’s success, other producers arrive in Marlborough,
1970s including Penfolds, Corbans and smaller, boutique-style wineries.

1979 The initial Sauvignon Blanc grapes are harvested to create Marlborough’s very first Sauvignon Blanc.

1982 The first shipment of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is exported to the UK.

1989 Montana Wines has planted 278 acres (1529 tonnes) of Sauvignon Blanc.

1990 Montana’s 1989 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wins the top honour - the ‘Marquis de Goulaine’ trophy - at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London.

Queen Elizabeth visits Montana Brancott Estate on February 13 (Photograph of Her Majesty the Queen sprinkling vines with Sparkling Wine).

Montana Wines and Frank Yukich win Marlborough Awards from Mayor Leo Kendry for being a dominant force in Marlborough and bringing the wine industry to the province. (Marlborough Express, August 27, 1990).

2000 Montana Brancott Visitor Centre officially opened in September by Prime Minister Helen Clark (Photograph of Helen Clarke and Peter Hubscher).

2009 30 vintages later, Montana continues to make award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, renowned the world over for its liveliness and purity.


Interesting Facts

• In the days when Montana first planted grape vines in Marlborough, the region was largely made up of sheep farms and fruit trees. There was little evidence that the area would make a successful wine growing region.

• The common thinking at the time was that wine grapes would not ripen in the South Island, and North Island industry leaders thought the climate was too cool for commercial viticulture.

• Mr Yukich, whose family had a winemaking tradition going back 300 years, was convinced of the region’s wine growing suitability on the basis of a report by Montana Wine’s viticulturalist Wayne Thomas.

• It was only after a letter from Professor H.W. Berg at the University of California’s viticulture department confirming the region was suitable for wine growing that Montana’s board gave its blessing for Mr Yukich to plant there.

• Montana’s main Marlborough vineyards are Brancott and Fairhall – where the first grapes were planted in 1973 – plus Renwick Estate, as well as a range of smaller vineyards in both the Wairau and Awatere valleys.

• Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’s flavours are typically bold, ripe and zesty, exactly what you’d expect from a classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – New Zealand’s quintessential wine style.

• More people around the world have discovered New Zealand wine through Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc than any other wine.

• In most years, Marlborough is the sunniest part of New Zealand, but the proximity of snow-capped peaks and a relatively large landmass causes a sharp drop in temperature at night. The high diurnal temperature variation locks in unusually high levels of acidity in some grape varieties, most notably Sauvignon Blanc, without compromising flavour development.

• In the United States, Montana is known as “Brancott”. This is to avoid confusion with Montana, the north western state.

• The Wall Street Journal recently described Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc as “Pure wine, pure taste and pure joy. Tastes like very ripe grapes picked and squeezed right into our mouths. A real lightness about it, with a long, exceptionally mouth-watering finish. Longtime Favourite”.

• The first “clone” (a vine or clipping to be used for plantings) to be planted by Montana in Marlborough was the UCD 1. Its roots can be traced back to the most famous of Bordeaux’s Sauternes Chateaux, Y’Quem.

The Export Story

1980 Montana first started exporting in 1980.

1981 Montana makes its first commercial sale of white wine to West Germany in 1981 (Marlborough Express, May 5, 1981).

In 1981/82, export sales exceeded $500,000, and the Montana label represented close to half the total wine exported from New Zealand by all companies (Christchurch Press, October 30, 1982).

1982 The first shipment of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to the United Kingdom was in 1982.

1992 Montana enters the Japanese market in 1992.

Ten years later, about half of New Zealand’s total wine exports to Britain came from Montana. Other destinations for its wines included Finland, Ireland, Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong and Japan (Christchurch Press, 23 May, 1992).

In 1992, Montana expected its export sales to reach $10 million – more than four times the value of its exports in 1989 (Marlborough Express, 15 May, 1992).

1993 Montana Wines wins export orders to supply Britain’s biggest supermarket groups – Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer – with white wine, including Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough Express, November 11, 1993).

1998 Montana signed a trade partnership with Seagram Chateau to export to the US in 1998 which included Sauvignon Blanc brands Montana Reserve and Letter Series B.

2009 Currently Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is exported to more than 30 countries, the largest market being the UK, followed by Australia and the United States.

Montana produces 1 million cases of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc annually and two thirds of this goes to export markets.

New Zealand wine exports now earn the country $904m (2008 year) and the industry is set to top $1.1 billion by 2010.

Montana is the largest selling brand of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in Slovenia and Croatia, largely because of the profile of the Yukich family, who originally hailed from Dalmatia.

A History of Accolades

Over the past three decades, Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has continued to impress the experts, winning multiple awards and accolades.

1980 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1979 vintage wins a medal at the New Zealand National Wine Awards

1981 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1980 vintage wins Gold at the New Zealand Easter Show

Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1980 vintage wins a Gold medal at the New Zealand National Wine Competition

1982 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1981 vintage wins Gold at the New Zealand Easter Show

1983 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1980 vintage wins Gold at the Canberra National Wine Show

Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1983 wins Gold at National Wine Competition

1984 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1983 vintage wins Champion White Table Award at the Easter Show

Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1980 and 1982 vintage win Gold at the New Zealand Easter Show

1985 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1983 wins Gold at the NZ Easter Show

1986 Montana wins multiple awards for its Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at the National Wine Competition (Marlborough Express, November 21, 1986)

Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1984 vintage wins Gold at NZ Easter Show

1990 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1989 vintage wins the Marquis de Goulaine trophy for best Sauvignon Blanc at the 21st International Wine and Spirits Competition held in London

1991 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1989 vintage wins an Intervin International Award for Wine Achievement

1992 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 1991 vintage wins best white wine at the Sydney International Wine Competition (Marlborough Express, May 15, 1992)

1997 Andy Frost, Montana’s Technical Services and Research Manager, wins White Winemaker of the Year at the London International Wine Competition

1999 Jeff Clarke, Chief Winemaker wins White Winemaker of the Year at the London International Wine Competition

2001 Patrick Materman, Montana’s Regional Winemaker for Marlborough, wins Winestate Magazine’s New Zealand Winemaker of the year

2002 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wins Best Imported Wine of the Year in Australia (under $15)

2009 The 30th vintage Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 has won accolades across the globe, including the rave review in the Wall Street Journal, “Best Value” in Wine Spectator, and five stars in Australia’s Winestate magazine.

Ends

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