From the chardonnays of Henderson, Bordeaux reds grown on Hawke’s Bay’s Gimblett Gravels, to the sauvignon blancs of Marlborough, Babich Wines’ uniqueness stems from the undeniable connection between what is in the glass to the land.
“We take our grapes off the same land every year,” says David Babich, the third generation Babich to lead the business founded by his grandfather Josip over a hundred years ago.“Vintage after vintage it’s the same high quality wine- the same land by the same producers creating the same style of wine people love and expect to enjoy.”
New Zealand’s oldest family-owned vineyard and winery, born from the early pioneering spirit that helped forge a fledgling country not yet bloodied in a world war, the story behind Babich underlines its philosophy of always evolving; always looking ahead.
“My great-grandparents were subsistence farmers in Croatia – then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They had seven sons and decided Croatia was too dangerous and had no opportunity.
So around 1904 when the eldest, Jakov, was getting to military age they made a courageous decision to send their boys overseas.”Knowing nothing of New Zealand other than it had good opportunity, Jakov was put on a boat on his own, unable to speak English and with empty pockets.
Three months later a letter was received confirming safe arrival and that it was indeed the land of opportunity.“Over the next six years four of the remaining brothers, including my grandfather Josip, were sent to New Zealand. My great-grandparents never saw those boys again.
“The boys became gum diggers in the kauri fields but my grandfather decided it would be good to plant grapes and make wine like they did back home. “Everyone grew grapes and made wine in Croatia—if you don’t grow grapes and make wine you don’t drink wine.”
Now with vineyards in Henderson, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, adaptability and sustainability have long been embedded in Babich Wine’s successful evolution through the generations—corner-stones of their survival.
“The industry is ever changing. Asia is growing in importance while the traditional markets of the US, UK and Australia are maturing. “But we’re seeing demand dropping down into subsets of what you offer. So there’s a lot of demand for vegan wines and we have a large organic vineyard in Marlborough.
“But it’s also good business to grow fruit in a sustainable way, so we’re very much into that and the market is responding to it. We have an emerging younger market of consumers who run a sustainability lens over whatever product they choose to purchase. That’s a change we’re going to see really play out over the next 10 years.”
Always strong in sustainability, Babich was awarded the first sustainable certified vineyard in the country under the New Zealand Wine Growers Sustainability programme at its Fernhill Vineyard in Hawke’s Bay.“When you’re a family business you want to be thinking long term so that you are farming the land in 50 or 100 years time.”
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