Such ideal conditions were first recognised near Masterton in the late 1880s. Reminded of her native Burgundy, the French wife of early Wairarapa settler William Beetham planting the first vineyard in 1892, with what are thought to have been pinot noir vines. She made her first vintage in 1897. Over a century later, wine experts acclaimed the surviving wine “alive and well”.
This and other early vineyards near Masterton were pulled out when the region voted to go ‘dry’ in 1909.
Technical studies by soil scientists with a taste for good wine in 1979 revealed Martinborough met all the criteria for potential vineyards: low rainfall, stony soils, semi-maritime climate and heat summation suitable for growing cool-climate wines.
Adventurous enthusiasts planted Ata Rangi, Chifney (now Margrain), Dry River, Martinborough Vineyard and what is now Te Kairanga on what became known as the Martinborough Terrace.
Their risky far-sightedness was repaid with some world-beating wines, international acclaim, and the revitalisation of a small rural town.
Through the 1980s vineyard planting multiplied, reaching Gladstone in the late 1980s and Masterton in the 1990s as the regional reputation for its wines grew.