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Hunters Wines

Monday 7th November 2016 | by Michael Jobling (Google+) | posted in Producer Focus

Hunters Wines

We recently had the pleasure of the company of James McDonald chief winemaker at Hunters Winery in Marlborough New Zealand. He kindly hosted a dinner for us at the Rat Inn near Hexham.

James is the next generation in the Hunter family who will be taking this iconic winery to its next stage, under the watchful eye of his Aunt Jane, who is still very much hands on ensuring everything is as it should be.

James took us through the wines at the dinner; one particular wine and food pairing he enthused about was his Pinot Noir with the Pheasant Coq au Vin style, as he said you don't find pheasant in his neck of the woods.

During the course of the evening he chatted about how Hunters Wines got started. Ernie Hunter had various jobs prior to founding his winery, one of them being a tour manager for Dusty Springfield! Anyway this larger than life character from Northern Ireland found himself in Marlborough New Zealand running a bar and wanted to offer local wines to his customers. However he had great difficulty in persuading any wineries to take him seriously, as what he wanted to do was to buy local grapes and vinify them for his bar. With no local wineries he approached wineries near Christchurch to make the wines for him - they turned him down, they didn't want to sully their reputation thinking that Marlborough grapes were inferior. Being the character that Ernie Hunter was - he decided to go it alone. In the early days Ernie was flying by the seat of his pants, despite this he was making some good wine and as a result people started taking notice. Accolades started to head in his direction, then tragedy struck when Ernie was killed in a car crash. Luckily, his wife Jane, was on hand to take over his legacy and as a result Hunters has become one of the foremost wineries in New Zealand.

Jane has won many trade awards for her wines, she has also been awarded an OBE for her services to the New Zealand wine industry. 80% of her wines are exported with the United Kingdom being a significant market. It is great to see the next generation stepping up to the plate. When he was with us James was telling me how he is working on a project to create a top of the range Pinot Noir and Sauvignon which Hunters are hoping to release next year - I await that with eager anticipation.

I have had a long association with Hunters Wines and I hold Jane and her wines in high regard. I know it bodes well for the future of Hunters as James is of the same mould as his Uncle and Aunt.