Marlborough is by far the biggest of New Zealand’s wine regions. Industry giant Montana (see brancott estate ) planted the first vines in Marlborough when it established the South Island’s first commercial vineyard in 1973. At the time it seemed an enormous gamble but after the vines reached full production Montana’s investment returned a handsome dividend in terms of quality and profit. Other producers soon followed to establish wineries in the region or to secure a supply of grapes for the 18-hour journey north to Auckland or Gisborne. The single wine that put Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the international map was cloudy bay, in 1985. Since 1989, winemakers based outside the region have been able to use the services of a growing number of custom crush facilities to process grapes into juice or wine which can then be transported in bulk with less risk of extracting astringent phenolics from grape skins. The availability of contract winemaking facilities has encouraged an increasing number of vine-growers to process part or all of their crop into wine for sale under their own label.