Jane Hunter was the first woman to be inducted into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame in 2013 for her impressively long list of contributions to the style, quality and growth in exports of Marlborough wine.
She took over Hunter’s Wines as owner and managing director in 1987 after the untimely death of her husband Ernie, who founded the winery in 1978; early days for quality wine in this country. Prior to her role at Hunter’s Wines, Jane was head of viticulture at Montana Wines. She has was born in South Australia and has a degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Adelaide.
Her leadership and ownership of Hunter’s Wines has seen the company grow to at least five times its original size, winning literally hundreds of medals both nationally and internationally, swell in terms of export volumes and be at the forefront of top notch methode traditionelle – bubbles made the same way as champagne. Her eye for employing talented people included, among many others, the late great, Tony Jordan, a sparkling wine specialist on both sides of The Tasman.
Hunter was made a Fellow(ess) of New Zealand Winegrowers in 2018, received the Wolf Blass AM Award in 2016 and was awarded the Wine Marlborough Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016
This is the seventh interview on this website using an adapted version of the Proust questionnaire which originated in 1886 as The New Yorker explains here.
Meet the woman behind the famous label, Jane Hunter…
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Managing to remain as a family owned winery business in Marlborough over the last 40 years. Many have been swallowed up over the past few years. We have a legacy to build on and it is our passion and commitment to keep doing so with the younger generation now coming through.
What is your current state of mind?
Liking the slower pace of life as we can’t travel as we have done for the past 40 plus years. Am also starting to chomp at the bit – as the gardening and spring cleaning are all up to date.
What is your favourite part of winemaking?
Budburst in the vineyards is always an amazing time of year. The young shoots give hope for the next season and it all starts again with optimism for the next vintage. Watching the grapes come into the winery, knowing that another vintage is completed.
Do you have a most treasured wine?
Ebenezer Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, which was made by the then BRL Hardy group, which my father grew grapes for. He purchased this by the case and kept it in the bottom of a wardrobe and pulled the odd bottle out when we were visiting. It was deemed a special occasion.
Where is your favourite wine region?
Barossa Valley because it is on the way to my hometown in the Riverland, another 100 kilometres on. I am always able to call in at favourite wineries when there and also check out a few new ones, while lapping up the view of rolling hills and gum trees.
When and where are you at your happiest?
With family when everyone brings a contribution of food and wine. There are some amazing cooks in the group, so it’s always very tasty meals and an interesting range of wines.
What do you most dislike in wine?
Pretentious marketing and pretentious label descriptors and people who think they know more about how you made your wine than you do.
What is your greatest fear?
That we will have another devastating frost and have to strictly allocate wines again when we are chomping at the bit to expand our markets.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Books, travel and the odd box of very tasty avocados from Gisborne.
What is your greatest regret?
Not purchasing more Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the late 1980s when prices were, in hindsight, very reasonable.
What talent would you most like to have?
Mind reading or future gazing would be very handy in this business.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Being separated from family and not being able to enjoy tasty meals and great wines with them.
What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?
Always wanting everything to be perfect – a place for everything and everything in its place.
What do you most value in your friends?
Their loyalty, compassion, zest for life and their interest in my life and ongoing support.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Don’t be so ridiculous.
What is your favourite meal?
A plate of River Murray yabbies (freshwater crayfish) on white bread with a sprinkle of white vinegar and salt and pepper.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?
A cat who is looked after as well as I look after my beautiful Bella cat.