Tale of the Tui Bird


The Tui bird has returned to Marlborough, New Zealand, thanks in some part to the conservation efforts of winemaker Jane Hunter, who planted a ‘native garden’ on the family estate in 2000. The mix of swamp, forest and wetland has re-created an environment which had largely disappeared from the region and it has encouraged native birds like the Tui to breed again.

‘The numbers are increasing’, says Jane, during a visit to Dublin. ‘The local Council has now joined in the programme and has set up a register of sightings.’

Like most New Zealand wine-makers Jane has a keen sense of preserving the environment. She is part of a large group which set out to achieve sustainable wine growing throughout the industry and she is pleased to report that they are on target to achieve their goal this year. ‘In addition to being good for the environment, it enhances the brand image of New Zealand wines’, she says.

Hunters is to the forefront of this movement and is now accredited as carbon neutral.

Born in Australia and trained as a viticulturalist, Jane moved to New Zealand in the 1980s and married Belfast-born Ernie Hunter who had bought a farm in Marlborough where he was growing a wide variety of grapes. They began to produce some acclaimed wines, winning awards in New Zealand and Europe. But tragedy struck in 1987 when Ernie was killed in a motor accident. Jane  took over the running of  his wine business together with winemaker Gary Duke  and Peter McDermod who became general manager. They developed the international reputation of Hunter wines with an emphasis on consistently high quality and developed a close relationship with distributors in export market, including Gilbeys in Ireland.

After 25 years of producing some of the outstanding wines of New Zealand, Jane is thinking about the future of the business.

‘Luckily a younger generation is moving into place.  Peter McDermod’s sons James and Edward have now joined our team.  James has a wine degree and has clocked up some valuable experience and Edward has a commerce degree. Gary Duke’s daughter Pania is our marketing co-ordinator. These young people  have new ideas and are switched on to new marketing strategies such as social media. They are also interested in producing high quality wines- so the future looks secure’, she says.

The world economic recession has affected New Zealand wines and the Hunter business, she says. ‘Prices have fallen around the world and exchange rates have varied.  While we still command a premium for our wines, the task is becoming more difficult. Extensive planting in the early years of this century will result in an increase in production over the next few years, but we have also had lighter vintages which help to balance the market.’ Hunters currently produces around 85,000 cases a year and Jane says that they would like to remain at this level.

Winning the Rugby World Cup, she says, was a morale booster for New Zealand, but Marlborough missed out on much of tourism spin-off because of the cancellation of the Christchurch games.

‘Although, as an Australian, I had some mixed feelings’, she adds.




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