Back in 1973, New Zealand’s wine scene was very different. Many of the vineyards were planted with hybrids, the most prevalent vinifera grapes were Müller-Thurgau and Palomino, and fortifieds played a significant role in the market. But things were changing. US drinks company Seagram had just bought a 40% stake in leading winery Montana whose founder, Frank Yukich, was looking for new vineyard land.
A chance meeting with 29-year-old scientist Wayne Thomas, from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, was to prove pivotal. Thomas impressed Yukich, who hired him on the spot. It was Thomas’s suggestion that they should consider Marlborough, which at the time had no vines, but seemed to be ideal for viticulture. Yukich listened and asked Thomas to prepare a report, which he duly did.