Population Map Of New Zealand

Nick Delegat and Mate Selak, under the watchful eye of customs officer Warren Leonard, draw off alcohol to fortify their ports and sherries. Marti Friedlander, Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, PH-2008-4

By the late 1950s, social and political attitudes – modified by more distance from the grey days of World War Two – had changed. The Select Committee that reported to the House of Representatives on 14 September 1957 recognised this shift in opinion and acted. Recommendation 27 reads ‘that approved restaurants be licensed to supply New Zealand light table wine with substantial meals’. No booze was to be served with a mere snack. By 1960, legislation was in place. The nights of patrons smuggling bottles into venues under dresses or in deep pockets, and restaurants risking prosecution for serving wine, were over. That the West Auckland member H. G. R. Mason moved the resolution was no coincidence.

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Other recommendations took longer to realise. The cautious wording of Recommendation 15 – ‘that wine-sellers licences be more freely granted and that an application for such a licence should not be refused because of the existence, or probable existence, of other forms of licence – looked forward to the battles to be heard before the Licensing Commission in the coming decades as the breweries and large wholesale liquor outlets protected sales of beer and imported wines and spirits for their hotels and ‘off-licence premises. Nevertheless, more wine-sellers licences were issued, mainly to the medium-sized firms from West Auckland. Some family wineries even established small stables of wine shops across selected provincial towns, mainly in the North Island. These proved valuable marketing channels until the popularity of table wine soared in the 1970s and most outlets licensed to sell alcohol had no option but to sell New Zealand wine. Frank Yukich of Montana was at the forefront of these battles, always jousting with the breweries. They contested every one of his applications. Through Yukich’s persistence, by the late 1970s Montana had accumulated 30 wine shops throughout the country.

The most far-reaching recommendation of the Select Committee – ‘that wine-sellers licences be granted to any grocer of good character who has suitable premises, and who does not sell food or drink for consumption on the premises, unless there is reasonable fear of undesirable social consequences – sounds decidedly quaint in the freewheeling early twenty-first century. It took until 1990 before supermarkets were licensed to sell wine. Within a decade of receiving their licences, supermarkets were dominating sales of both local and imported wine. Beer gained access to supermarkets only in 1999. For a short time wine had a marketing advantage over other alcoholic drinks. The value of wine in the trolleys of supermarket shoppers is now worth more than any other single category of food or drink.

Thus, by 1960, the conditions were in place for the development of a quality wine industry in New Zealand. Legislation and cultural attitudes had shifted to allow the growth of wine sales in restaurants, wine shops, and at the cellar door. A group of young wine enthusiasts, many of them descendants of winemaking families, brought experience and new ideas to the business. And companies both large and small were beginning to show that vines and wines of quality could be grown in New Zealand soils and climates across a number of regions. After 1960, the country’s wine production expanded rapidly as the industry went through a regional and varietal revolution.

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