Jane Hunter (CNZM, OBE)
For service to Wine Making
Known worldwide as “The First Lady of New Zealand Wine” Jane Hunter has been Managing Director of Hunter’s Wines since 1987. Jane has led the company to outstanding local and international success as one of New Zealand’s ground-breaking premium wine labels.
Born in South Australia, where her father was a contract grape grower for BRL Hardy. Jane gained a degree in Agricultural Science at the University of Adelaide, and then went on to work in Australia and New Zealand in various jobs including teaching horticulture to prisoners in Australia, and running at café in Waikanae before she was appointed to the position of National Viticulturist for Montana Wines based in Blenheim. At a crucial time for New Zealand’s fledgling wine industry, Jane was in charge of all Montana’s vineyards, setting work programmes for the managers, organising research and development and liaising with contract growers.
In 1984 Jane met and married Irishman Ernie Hunter who had started the Hunter’s Wines company in 1979. Ernie had a flair for marketing and promotions and is considered to have brought Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to the world stage when the company won the top award at the 1986 Sunday Times Wine Festival in London.
After her husband’s untimely death in 1987, Jane took over as Managing Director of Hunter's Wines. Her knowledge of wine and experience proved invaluable, as she took the already reputable brand to a new level. She has led the company to outstanding local and international success as one of New Zealand’s premium wine labels, using her expertise and that of the team at Hunter’s Wines headed by multi award-winning Senior Winemaker, James Macdonald, ensuring the consistently high quality of wines produced as well as the recognition of Hunter’s Wines across the world.
Her commitment to the New Zealand wine industry is also evidenced in her serving on the Board of the Wine Institute of New Zealand, and in her being one of the founding directors of the New Zealand Wine Guild. She has also served on several boards such as New Zealand 2000 Task Force Board, the Horticulture Research Board, the New Zealand Wine Company, the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Board, and the Plant and Food Research Board.
Jane was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Massey University in 1997, and in 2009, was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to viticulture. She has since been recognised at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s ‘World Class New Zealand Awards’ for her outstanding contribution to the country’s economic development.
Hunter’s philosophy has always been quality before quantity, ensuring the company’s distinctive wines are always medal winners and in demand on an international scale. Jane was inducted into the NZ Wine Hall of Fame in 2013 - the first women to ever have the honour – and 2016 received both the Wolf Blass AM Award in Australia, and the Wine Marlborough Lifetime Achievement Award. Jane was made a Fellow of the New Zealand Winegrowers in 2018.