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Twelve New Zealand Winemakers Form an Elite Group

Small family wineries band together to promote themselves globally

Bob Campbell
Posted: March 16, 2005

Twelve of New Zealand's top producers have formed an association called the Family of Twelve, intended to better promote the country's small, family-owned wineries in a global market increasingly dominated by large alcohol-beverage companies.

Family of Twelve chairman Richard Riddiford, who is also managing director of Palliser Estate, explained that the organization grew out of a concern that the mass-marketing of wine is undermining the public's appreciation for high quality, artisan wines that express individuality.

The 12 wineries are all privately owned producers that make well-rated wines and have established distribution channels. Six are from New Zealand's North Island: Kumeu River and Villa Maria in Auckland, Millton in Gisborne, Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay and Martinborough's Palliser and Ata Rangi wineries. And six are from the South Island: Fromm, Nautilus and Lawson's Dry Hills in Marlborough, Neudorf in Nelson, Pegasus Bay in Waipara and Felton Road in Central Otago.

"We know and respect each other's winemaking philosophy, we enjoy each other's company and we see this as an opportunity to combine our talents and energy to create a marketing group without parallel," Riddiford said.

The idea is similar, but not identical, to that of the Primum Familiae Vini (first families of wine), an association of some of Europe's leading producers that promotes the traditions and values of family-owned wineries. The Family of Twelve plans to launch an export initiative with promotions in San Francisco, New York and London and to invite members of the international wine press to tour their wineries.

The selection of members was easy, said Riddiford, who admitted that one winemaker, whom he refused to identify, chose not to join the group. "It is a happy coincidence that they span all local wine regions and make wine from nearly every grape variety grown in the country," he said.

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