With the dream of creating a world class brandy the seven winemakers of the 7 Cellars Brandy group began their journey in earnest. The required Government licenses had been secured, appropriate grapes had been harvested and distillation following fermentation was underway. Batches of Brandy were made over 3 years with the best parcels placed in brand new French oak barrels for a minimum period of 3 years. The considerable skills of the pioneering forefathers of the New Zealand wine industry were brought to bear in the creation of these unique brandies. The Seven Men of the 7Cellars Brandy would meet regularly to review progress, evaluate samples and contribute their own expertise and experience. Their single minded aim was to create brandy that would be recognized as world class.
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“Never underestimate the customer” was Josip’s (Joe) mantra as he refused to add water to the wine to create more product – a practise popular at the time. Babich arrived in New Zealand from Dalmatia in 1910 and produced his first wine six years later. Babich was initially famous for crushing grapes with his feet and a manuka stick and before being a serious winemaker had milked cows, grown vegetables and established an orchard. When he died in 1983 Josip was regarded as one of the ‘grand old men’ of the New Zealand wine industry
Petar founded the Lincoln Vineyards in 1937 and initially carved out an enviable reputation making fortified wines, especially dry sherry. Later as customers tastes changed he turned to table wines. To get some cash to establish his vineyard he was employed by the Ministry of Works and after a hard days work he would come home and begin clearing his land and digging up stumps. Fredatovich was an extremely versatile man and was skilled at coopering his own barrels from totara. He was also the first New Zealand winemaker to have a stainless steel still.
Nikola first came to New Zealand in 1923 but later returned to the island of Korcula off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. After coming back to New Zealand he purchased land near the Whau River an arm of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour in 1947. With his wife Vidosava he established an initial four-hectare area of vines at Henderson. Like many others he started out making fortified wines including fine Sherries, a sparkling called Epernay and a coffee liqueur. Table wines were to follow and his original concrete block winery became a cellar door shop. Today Delegat is the largest family controlled winemaker in NZ.
It was a long way emotionally and culturally from the island of Korcula to planting vines in Huapai, just north of Auckland, New Zealand. Nobilo went on to found a major wine company and knew it was in good hands when he died in 2007, aged 94. During the sixties the Nobilo brand was becoming well established with highly revered Dry Red, Dry White, Rose and Sauternes. His reputation was enhanced with quality Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, a sweetish Muller-Thurgau and he led the charge with Pinot Noir. In the late 60’s Nobilo led the wine industry away from fortified wine production. Today the Nobilo name is revered worldwide as a quality wine brand.
Mate got the call from his uncle Marino who had travelled to New Zealand from Croatia and by 1940 his grape growing and winemaking was going so well he needed help. Young Mate sailed to N.Z. on a one-way ticket and at the age of 23 had bought the land from his uncle. The wines were proving to be very popular and were described as having ‘a taste of Europe’. Alas Selak’s land was confiscated by the Government to provide a new motorway, so ever resilient he made wine in the basement of his house until purchasing 70 acres of land in west Auckland’s Kumeu. Mate Selak died in 1991 but left behind a well-established brand looked after by his sons.
Most Chinese who came to New Zealand especially in the latter part of the 18th century did so in search of gold, usually in the lower reaches of the South Island. But Stanley Chan was keen on the idea of wine making and became a part of the ‘Dali Mafia’ even though he didn’t share their heritage or history. Later on he moved further south to Thames where he established the Totara Vineyard in 1950, purchasing a vineyard founded in 1925 by a distant relative. For a good many years they specialised in producing Kiwifruit and Coffee based liqueurs.
A Dalmatian deserter from the Austrian army, Balich established his Golden Sunset Vineyard in 1912. Like many of his fellow countrymen he was extremely hardworking and frugal. During the day he worked for winemaking pioneer A.A. Corban and at night laboured by candlelight to plant his vineyard. Balich was an excellent salesman and developed such a regular customer base that he was soon able to purchase a Model T van. Josip was also very generous with his fellow countrymen by offering them bank guarantees or interest free loans to help them get established.