On the grapevine: Scottish vineyard owners

The vines from the Gladstone Vineyard. Picture: Contributed
The vines from the Gladstone Vineyard. Picture: Contributed
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WINES produced Down Under by a Scottish grandmother are developing a cult following among expatriate Scots around the world.

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 after the distance from her homeland.

It is even sold with a luggage label, to emphasis Kernohan’s personal journey from Glasgow’s south-side 35 years ago.

Her premium wines are in growing demand among Scots in New Zealand and Australia, and those arranging homecoming celebrations for relatives and friends in Scotland.

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 is now in her early 60s and is only one of a handful of women wine producers in the world.

She arrived in New Zealand in her 30s with her husband David and two daughters. He went to work in the school of architecture in Wellington and she worked in computing. But that was to suddenly change.

She said: “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 a vineyard came on the market I decided this was it.

“It was a very steep learning curve. 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 industry works. I knew that people like a story attached to a wine so decided to use my own to show the link between two halves of my life.”

Experts say it is her clever but simple marketing which has found her wines a winning place in a crowded market.

The vineyard’s website says “12,000 Miles 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 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 had managed to establish her brand.

He said: “The 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.”

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 Californian 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”.

“Christine 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.”

Gordon Polley, owner of the Ellie’s Cellar chain of wine shops in Scotland said that 12,000 Miles’ provenance was attracting customers.

“It has definitely attracted attention. We put a notice with its story alongside it and it is the sort of thing that people talk about to friends.

“Just recently we sold some to some guys from Glasgow who had been out in New Zealand.”