Sunday, November 1, 2009

A visit to a Mangawhai Vineyard in 1872

Off and on I've been reading various histories on the New Zealand Wine Industry. It has always held my interest. Marlborough in the South Island ultimately now is the wine growing capital of New Zealand (I could be wrong of course - correct me if I am). However the Viticulture Industry began here in Northland with James Busby and other noted persons who had settled in the Bay of Islands. This article I found is a description of a vineyard in Mangawhai from the Southern Cross 24 April 1872


Mr Albetz of Mangawai, has for a long time attended to the growth of the vine. He is gentleman of much experience in this particular art.

In a recent visit to his vineyard, I was surprised to see such poor land yielding such delicious fruits, and was informed of the great amount of time and labour had been bestowed, in order to bring it into its present state.

The vineyard is laid out so that no danger can be experienced from the south or west wind, which so often proves destructive to crops more hardy in their nature than the delicate grape. Mr Albetz has a few acres dedicated entirely to the growth of the vine, which he informed me would this year have yielded very well but for a severe north-east gale, which swept over his place about two months ago, doing great injury to his young vines. Mr Albetz estimates his loss at £100 in consequence.

At every turn the eye was met by clusters of the finest grapes, the vines almost borne to the ground by their delicious load. There are to be seen the black and white Hamburg, the red and white Sweetwater, and the black and white Muscatel, also the Cape vine, &c.

On being conducted to the cellar, it was at once seen, by its rich store, in that way Mr Albetz disposed of his grapes. The large number of well-filled casks was sufficient proof that a good vineyard in the hands of a person such as the above gentleman can be turned to good account.

I was informed that in connection with winemaking there is a considerable amount of waste, which at present is cast away - from this material brandy can be obtained. But the present excise regulations prevent any advantage being taken of this waste by owners of vineyards. Can the same privileges not be enjoyed in this colony as are granted to vinegrowers in Australia?

I would suggest that power be given to use a still for a certain length of time throughout the year for a moderate charge, thus enabling the brandy producing material to be utilised, thus enabling a purer quality of spirits than is generally met with. In these days, when industries of local character are so needful in a growing colony, and when so much is spent in bring articles often of an inferior quality from a distance, it would be well for our Legislature to remove some of the restrictions that are placed upon distilling, and thus enable men of large experience - such as Mr Albetz - to make their vineyards not only a credit to the district but also conducive to the wants of the province. T.W.D

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