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Riversun’s Geoff Thorpe in New Year Honours list

Geoff Thorpe (Photo: Riversun Nurseries)

When I spotted Geoff Thorpe’s name in the New Year Honours list my first reaction was “couldn’t have gone to a more deserving man”. Riversun Nurseries in Gisborne has made a great contribution to the success of the New Zealand wine industry. Good wine needs healthy grapevines, it’s as fundamental as that.

I was inspired by the passion, determination and sheer genius of the team at Riversun when I visited the nursery some years ago. They’ve been supplying vineyards with vines for 35 years and currently produce around one-third of all grapevines. Riversun has 250 different grape varieties and clones in its source block half of which are new to this country.

I phoned Geoff on 4 January expecting to catch him on holiday, but he was doing a tour of inspection of the nursery’s young vines. I asked him what was the achievement that gave him the most satisfaction. He replied that it was establishing a world class vine certification program, which culminated in Riversun’s vine importation program, adding later that surviving the 2008 wine surplus was another considerable achievement.

When the wine surplus hit vineyard expansion ground to a rapid halt. In 2008 there were 30 vine nurseries. In a few years, there were only four left.

“I had just spent eight months living in Burgundy, returning for the 2008 vintage. I then had to make the difficult decision whether to roll up my tent and move on or to tough it out. Thankfully I chose the latter course and we emerged from the crash stronger and wiser.”

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