Abandoned in Venice Street
Found in the small Wairarapa town of Martinborough, some 80 km north east of Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island. Martinborough is famous for its Pinot Noir wines, however this scene was in one of the residential streets near the town centre. Everything here looks as though it has seen better days, unlike the rest of the town which is thriving on its farming and wine economies.
Still a Winery
In a previous post about a historic winery mention was made of an old and now unused still and its associated boiler. I have now had an opportunity to tour the winery and can show a few images of the oldest part of the complex. The winery started its life as a wine research station operated by the New Zealand Government Ministry of Agriculture. Fortified wines were part of the experimental work carried out here, thus the requirement for a still to produce the alcohol to fortify the ports and sherries.
Although the still is no longer used, it makes an impressive sight. It used to be a centrepiece in the wine tasting room under a previous ownership and is sure to have raised a lot of questions. The maker’s plate bolted to the side leaves no doubt where it was manufactured.
In a room next door is the old steam boiler that used to feed the still. It now looks quite derelict and covered with bird droppings but it still makes a statement about the technology in use at the beginning of the twentieth century. The steam also provided power for other machinery in the winery.
In the barrel room next to the tasting area is a banner which shows the wine making process to help visitors understand the work flow in the winery. It’s a bit tatty now and quite simplistic, but it served the purpose.
A shelf in the old tasting room displays some of the wine styles that were being produced by the Ministry of Agriculture. The labels bear the New Zealand Government crest. In those days New Zealand was trying to copy the wine styles of France and Germany, a practice that has long since ceased. Wine makers throughout the country now produce distinctively New Zealand character wines from both classic and newer grape varieties.
Historic New Zealand Winery
Te Kauwhata is a small North Waikato village which lies in a valley 2 kilmetres east of State Highway 1 about halfway between Auckland and Hamilton. The village has a very early relationship with wine production in New Zealand.
About half a kilometer to the west of the village, nestled into the side of a hill and facing to the east, is a significant historic New Zealand winery which is now owned by TK Vintners Limited.
An extract from the website of Rongopai Wines states:
“The building on this site was first constructed by the New Zealand government in 1902, as New Zealand’s first viticultural research station. The aim of the research facility, which was headed by pioneer Romeo Bragato, was to understand New Zealand’s soil and to implement a programme to establish varieties that would thrive in the diverse climatic conditions. This same site where Romeo’s groundbreaking work took place was used as Rongopai’s winery from 1932 to 2007. The building has been restored with extensive renovations and modern upgrades, however much of the building’s original features are maintained, and as the building is rated ’Class A Historical’ it will remain standing for many years.”
This image was taken yesterday morning during a detour from a day trip to Hamilton. Over the years I have often heard the winery referred to and was always surprised to learn of the NZ Government’s early involvement (late 19th century) in the wine industry. It appears though that this interest waned during the Temperance period of the early 20th century. The tall square building in the centre-left of the image houses an old alcohol still and its associated coal-fired boiler, neither of which are still in use.