Map Of New Zealand North Island

I think people have to understand who Frank Yukich was – he was one of New Zealand’s pioneers. He was a workaholic. He was energetic, he was arrogant, he was everything that made a good entrepreneur. The moment he saw the potential down here, he was planning, and I’ve still got the original plans of the winery. It was going to be out at Makaraka by the racecourse. Council wouldn’t hear of it and drove us in here into the industrial area and we were in production by 1971. That was our first season.

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Corbans quickly followed Montana into Gisborne, with their large winery being completed in time for the 1972 vintage. According to wine historian Dick Scott, Frank Yukich had offered Corbans ‘the joint use of Montana’s Gisborne plant but ‘for many considerations – and pride was not the least of them – the proposal was rejected’. While admiring his entrepreneurial talents, many people involved in the wine industry, including some of his Croatian colleagues, were wary of Frank Yukich. This characteristic had been evident when, in the early 1960s, he called a meeting in Oratia, West Auckland to suggest that a group of them form a co-operative. Those attending were less than enthusiastic so Frank and Mate Yukich went their own way.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, as was later to happen in Marlborough, Corbans was in direct competition with Montana in Gisborne, but often a short step behind. Nevertheless, the sympathy of grape growers often seemed to be with Corbans -probably because Montana was increasingly outspoken about grape prices in New Zealand being too high. These differences culminated in 1991 with Montana taking a claim to the Commerce Commission that grape growers were acting illegally and fixing prices by using a price they had already agreed on collectively. Individual growers had to have the opportunity to negotiate their own prices for grapes.

Corbans Wines Ltd in Gisborne

The 1970s were telling years for Corbans. It began the decade as clearly the largest and most successful independently owned wine enterprise in New Zealand and ended it

Corbans’ Cottage Block vineyard, planted during the 1980s in Mendoza Chardonnay.

Warren Moran associated with Dominion Breweries as part of the Brierley stable of companies. Several decisions of policy by Corbans, together with changes to the ownership structure of the production and distribution of beer, spirits and wine, contributed to the family losing control of their enterprise to Rothmans by 1979.

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