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Scots grandmother’s wine is toast of New Zealand

Christine Kernohan, owner of Gladstone Vineyard. Picture: Contributed

Christine Kernohan, owner of Gladstone Vineyard. Picture: Contributed


  • by SHAN ROSS
 

A WINE produced by a Scottish grandmother is becoming a cult hit with expatriates in the Antipodes who say it strikes a chord with home.

Christine Kernohan, who set up Gladstone Vineyard in Wairarapa on New Zealand’s north island in 1996, produces the award-winning 12,000 Miles range named in recognition of the distance from her homeland.

The label for the range, rather than portraying the familiar picture of a vineyard, is in the shape of an old vintage luggage label familiar to travellers emigrating to distant lands.

The premium range of wines, which includes Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Merlot Cabernet, is now in growing demand among Scots in New Zealand and Australia as well as being sought out back home by Scots arranging reunion celebrations for relatives and friends.

Around 60 per cent of the range is now exported to the UK, Canada and Australia. Sales in the US are due to begin shortly.

Kernohan, originally from the south side of Glasgow, is only one of a handful of women wine producers in the world.

She said she is enjoying all the “buzz” about the range and giving the major producers a bit of a shock.

“I came out to New Zealand with my husband David and two daughters 35 years ago just to try something different. He was working at the new school of architecture in Wellington and I went into working with computers,” Kernohan, who is in her early 60s, said.

“Then I had a mid-life crisis and decided I just could not spend the rest of my life in computers. I liked the outdoor life and when the vineyard came on the market I decided this was it. I had never worked in the wine industry but had done a wine appreciation course.

“But actually running a vineyard was a totally different thing from reading about it in books. It was a very steep learning curve learning how to work the spraying gear and the cooling systems which were originally manual ones.

“Suddenly you’re in the real wine world with so many decisions to make, from selling, working with suppliers and just understanding how the entire works.

“I knew that people like a story attached to a wine so decided to use my own to show part of the link between two halves of my life.”

But as well as being a good quality wine selling at approximately £13.99, it is its clever but simple marketing which experts say has found it a winning place in a highly competitive and crowded wine market.

The vineyard’s website describes the provenance of the wine as “reflecting new world wine styles, with good fruit and terroir”

Then says “12,000 Miles also represents a journey – from Christine’s birth home in Scotland to her adopted home here in New Zealand, a journey that has been a major part of Christine for half her life. It also represents the journey involved in bringing the wine to market – grown sustainably with care in our vineyards in the Wairarapa and made with passion in our winery in Gladstone. As one of a handful of Scottish women winemakers in the world, this label tells her story.

Professor Leigh Sparks of the Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, said that Kernohan, a beginner with her low marketing budget, had achieved just as much in brand recognition than her competitors.

“If you look at the wine market generally and the huge amount of wines out there has to be something different and unique about a product to make it stand out in people’s minds.

“This 12,000 Miles name will have some resonance with Scots wherever they are. It also plays on the Edinburgh-Dunedin link. The luggage label idea also does the same thing.

“It will have to be of good quality to keep the repeat customers who have been attracted by its story.”

Linda MacDonald, 38, from Aberdeen who works as a nanny in Christchurch, said that she and her sister back in Scotland both bought the range for special occasions.

“If I have a choice of French, Italian or Califonian wine or 12,000 Miles, well, I’ll choose the one which sounds Scottish even though I know it is made from grapes grown here. My sister Fiona said it makes her feel closer to me. I know of other Scots who say the same thing and it’s become one of those “cool” brands.”

Raymond Chan, a New Zealand wine expert, described 12,000 Miles as “more than commercially acceptable, and usually good examples of their varieties and styles

“Christine is a very driven woman and has achieved a great deal. When she bought Gladstone Vineyard it had a strong reputation as one of the leading and pioneering vineyard estates in the small Wairarapa district. It can now be regarded as the best in the region today.

“The wine world is male dominated. But that is changing quickly. ‘Women in wine’ seems more accepted in the ‘New World’. Maybe it’s the openness of New Zealand – afterall New Zealsnd was the first country to give women the vote.

“Personally, women may face slightly greater adversity in the wine world, so their efforts and endeavours can be admired more. But gender isn’t the defining trait for acknowledgement and recognition.”

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