James Millton’s leadership when it comes to organics in New Zealand is unquestionable; he is regularly referred to as the country’s father of the farming practice.
James Millton is the father of organic wine production in New Zealand. As an early adopter and ardent supporter of organic and biodynamic wine, he has been an inspiration to many other grape growers and winemakers and has played no small part in driving the growth of organic and biodynamic practices in this country.
James started his career in the wine industry at the top. In the 1970s he worked at Champagne Bollinger, Maison Sichel in Bordeaux and Weingut Kurstner in Rheinhessen, returning to New Zealand after having been inspired by their methods and manners.
James and Annie Millton established Millton Vineyard in Gisborne in 1984. In 1986 James was instrumental in writing the certified organic wine standards for grape growing and wine production in New Zealand, in conjunction with BioGro NZ.
Following the transition period prescribed in organic standards, in 1989 Millton Vineyards became the first certified organic commercial wine producer in the country.
In 2009 Millton Vineyards became one of the first biodynamic Demeter-certified wine producers in New Zealand and is today one of the oldest biodynamic wine estates in the Southern Hemisphere. Millton Vineyards is a founding member of the international Renaissance des Appellations, a French-inspired group of biodynamic producers.
James is actively involved with the promotion of wine internationally through trade promotions and workshops. He is a member of the wine collective The Family of Twelve, a fraternity of 12 of New Zealand’s most prestigious family-owned wineries.
James has served the New Zealand wine industry as a judge for wine competitions including the Bragato and Air New Zealand Wine Awards. He is the past chair of Organic Winegrowers NZ and has sat on the council of the Bio Dynamic Farming and Gardening Society of New Zealand.
In 2009 James received the Jon Manhire Award for outstanding contribution to the organic sector. In 2012 James was invested at Government House and made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
In 2013 the New Zealand Winegrowers Association selected James and Annie Millton as the Personalities of the Year and in 2019 both were inducted to become Fellows of New Zealand Winegrowers.
James is an inspirational figure for many in the organic and biodynamic wine world. His vineyard, his wines and his personal example have given many other growers the motivation to become organic or biodynamic.
Rather than resting on his accomplishments, he has always been keen to share his ideas, experiments and successes with others, for the benefit of the land, the people working on it, and the wine industry.
During his journey he has been a mentor to many in the New Zealand Industry.
Photography courtesy of Millton Vineyards & Winery.