Ultimate Guide to the Wellington Wine Region

By: Libby Little

Wellington Wine Region History and Culture

Wellington's history, even going back quite far, has never been short of characters. The Maori inhabitants are indigenous to New Zealand. During the 10th century, Polynesian explorer Kupe landed in Wellington Harbour [source: WellingtonNZ]. The historical details of Wellington's inhabitants are shadowed by antiquity, but we do know that the Dutch showed up in 1642. From there, New Zealand was landed upon and mapped by the British (including the famous Captain Cook) and the French from the 1700s through the 1800s [source: NZHistory].

In 1840, after realizing the French were moving in on "their" territory, the British decided to create The Treaty of Waitangi. Maori chiefs signed the document on May 21, 1840, officially bringing New Zealand under Britain's wing. Since that time, there have been over 1,000 claims of British treaty breaches [source: NZ History].


Despite continuous land ownership disputes, people still needed their wine. Samuel Marsden, a British missionary, first introduced grapevines to New Zealand in 1819 [source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand]. From there, others experimented with vineyards, but it wasn't until 1895 that someone saw the area for what it could be -- a wine gold mine.

Romeo Bragato was a wine expert from Europe. He encouraged New Zealand to unify its wine-making efforts and take advantage of new vines that were resistant to the ravenously hungry phylloxera bugs that were taking over Europe. In 1902, Bragato became the government viticulturist for the New Zealand Department of Agriculture [source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand]. Today, the wine-producing industry can thank its very own Romeo for getting things started.

To make great wines, you need to know how to work the land. Read on to learn about the Wellington wine region's agriculture.