Tuesday, 14 February 2023 14:25

A family legacy

Written by  Sophie Preece
Sara Stocker and Allan Scott Sara Stocker and Allan Scott

The roots of Allan Scott Family Winemakers go back to the first days of Marlborough's wine industry, 50 years ago this year.

The company's founder and namesake was a stockman like his father, until a job in August 1973 - digging posts on Montana's first 400-hectare development - changed everything. "Having to carve out a whole new life I didn't know about was probably one of the best decisions I made," said Allan Scott when presented the 2022 Wine Marlborough Lifetime Achievement Award late last year.

The dry and dusty Brancott development was bewildering, but something about it gelled, and by 1975 Allan and his wife Cathy were planting their own Müller-Thurgau vineyard on Old Renwick Road, among the first 10 Montana winegrowers and industry pioneers. A decade later they planted Sauvignon Blanc on Jacksons Road, and in 1990 forged their own label. All the while they were growing a young family, with their youngest daughter Sara Stocker recalling a childhood amidst the vines and wines and relentless work of an emergng business in a nascent industry.

In their very first vintage growing for Cloudy Bay, she remembers nights sleeping in the truck with her dad, waiting for the 'toot' that let them know it was time to collect the gondola and get grapes to the winery. "I thought the winemakers were super gods," says Sara, who is now co-owner of the family business with her brother Josh. "The worst thing was that from a really young age I liked wine. I liked the taste and it was incredible you could get all these different flavours out of a grape."

Josh went on to become a winemaker, while Sara grew a fascination with the vineyard, merging a passion for the outdoors and environment with a career in viticulture. Those are the realms they remain responsible for as owners, although as a family business they are in boots and all in almost every aspect of operation, she says.

Marlborough is New Zealand’s biggest wine region by far, with more than 29,000 hectares of planted vineyard and a gleaming global reputation, led by the immense fan base for the region’s Sauvignon Blanc. But 50 years on from its beginnings, the industry is still driven by community and collegiality, Sara says. “You know everyone in the industry and we’re all really supportive of each other because the market is big enough… we have the whole world.” Marlborough is “incredibly lucky” to be able to grow wine that no one else can replicate, “and that’s purely down to soils, climate and probably good old Kiwi ingenuity,” she says. It’s also down to a lot of hard work, “and no one in the industry is afraid of it”.

In recent years, the development of Appellation Marlborough Wine, to protect the integrity of the region’s Sauvignon Blanc, and Bragato Research Institute, to grow the science behind vineyards and wine, are examples of an industry staying abreast of the challenges as it grows. And some things never change, she adds. “Like putting back what you take out and thinking about the next generation and the generation after that.”

For Josh and Sara, being part of a 50-year wine legacy is something they’ll never take for granted. “We are just so privileged to be in the position that we grew up here in Marlborough with the industry, and have learned so much.”

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