The Freeth Winery

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George Freeth was born to early Nelson settlers who moved to Marlborough when he was a boy.  At first he was a bushman in Koromiko, but in 1880 at the age of 35 he established Marlborough’s first winery in Mud Road (now Lindens Road), Mt Pleasant. On the property he grew red currants and gooseberries, and he used to buy in berries, grapes and other fruit to make his wines.  Even the teetotal Wilson family, who didn’t approve of his products, sold fruit to him, Mike Taylor was told by their daughter.

The Freeth Winery. Picton Historical Society
Click image to enlarge

Freeth wines were exhibited in America, England and France, and won many awards.  In 1920 when George was 75, he sold his winery to Hughes & Crossan, Auckland merchants, who however retained Mr Freeth’s services for the winemaking. Men didn’t apparently retire in those days!

At some stage the winery was moved to Koromiko, next door to the present golf course; the boat sale yard and motels now stand on ground which was once covered in gooseberry and currant bushes.  After his death in 1926 George’s two sons Richard and Albert (Dick and Albie to those who knew them) took over running the winery, operating as Freeth Brothers.  They built a sawmill directly behind the cellars, originally to mill timber for making the wine barrels – Albie like his father had been a sawmiller before turning to winemaking.  ‘I used to spend ages watching them steam the timber to bend it, like they do for boats,’ says Mike Taylor of Picton Museum.

Freeth Brothers won many medals and awards, their most popular wines being Constancia, Port, and Sherry, although they also made Madeira.  They supplied weddings and other functions, charging (in 1927) 2/6 bottle or 30/- case.  During a shortage of wine after World War II, they sold 300 barrels to Corban’s Wines.
 

The Freeth Winery bottle store. Picton Historical Society. Click image to enlarge

The sawmill was enlarged gradually and used for a wide range of purposes, including cutting firewood for local women whose husbands were away during the war.  Mike remembers helping at the winery: picking gooseberries, washing bottles, and (more popular) helping with the bottling.  This was sometimes done by siphoning, the most enjoyable part, says Mike: ‘By the end of the day you’d have had a taste of sherry, Constancia and port!’

The winery and sawmill were closed in 1958, and one of the old circular saws is now in Picton Museum store room.  All that exists today of the winery is the old tool shed, in the loft of which chaff and oats were once kept for the horses.  Picton Museum still holds a bottle of Freeth Brothers Port, which smells delicious – the cork has failed over the years and allows the aroma to escape!

 

This story is an adapted version of one written by Loreen Brehaut for the Seaport News, 2010

 

Sources used in this story

  • Mike Taylor, Picton Museum

For further sources refer to those listed in the Marlborough wine story

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 For further sources refer to those listed in the Marlborough wine story

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