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Metropolitan Vineyards and Cellars
In medieval France, every major settlement where grapes would grow had its vineyards nestled against the protective walls of the town. Vineyards adjoining some towns proved to make especially good wine. Bordeaux was one of them. Before the Bordeaux region specialised in the vine and wine it was a trading town, packed with merchants trading with England and the North Sea ports and transporting wines from the hinterland of Bordeaux as well as from regions to the south. The merchants and politicians of Bordeaux saw the opportunity to produce and trade wine, especially to Britain, and their entrepreneurship stimulated and built the local wine industry. Over centuries, vignerons learned and refined their skills until the wines were of superior quality to most other regions of France, and Bordeaux became one of the most successful and specialised wine regions in the world.
Proximity to a city continues to be an advantage for wine enterprises in any country. In three of the four metropolitan wine regions discussed in this chapter – Auckland and its region, Wellington and the Wairarapa, Christchurch and Waipara – association with a large city has had a marked influence on the location and character of the wine industry that emerged. As well as having the market and loyalty of its provincial city, Nelson’s winegrowing is also influenced by the region’s long history of growing a variety of fruit and vegetables, from quality apples to asparagus, to which grapes have been added as another successful crop.
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Collectively, these smaller wine regions of New Zealand have the third largest area in vines after Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. With a total of 4042 hectares of grapes planted in 2010, they slot into the hierarchy of regions after Hawke’s Bay and before Gisborne. Waipara has the largest metropolitan vineyard of these smaller regions with a total of 1456 hectares of grapes in production. Waipara growers are highly protective of the identity of their locality and have been reluctant to be included in the larger entity of Canterbury. Given that the rest of Canterbury had just 323 hectares in vines in 2010, their reluctance is understandable. Nevertheless, with a total of 1779 hectares of vines in the combined Canterbury region, its total is fast approaching the area of vines recorded for Gisborne.
In each of the regional examples, the intersection of vines and wines with a particular city and its countryside has been different. Migration of Croatians from the Dalmatian coast to New Zealand, especially Northland and Auckland, was the initial stimulus to winegrowing in the Auckland region. Local landowners with strong political connections to Wellington were important in Martinborough and the wider Wairarapa. Nelson has the longest and most successful horticultural history of all these metropolitan regions. The French vineyards of Akaroa of the nineteenth century demonstrated that vines would grow in the Canterbury region, while in the twentieth century it took pioneering locals to demonstrate the potential of the Waipara area to make fine wines.