Up for a Challenge: Our Director, Lynn Mabon

Rain, rain go away! If you’ve been shouting at the skies this past month you’re not alone. Our grape growers have too! But rain is not the only challenge facing wine producers at the moment, as our General Manager, Lynn Mabon, knows first-hand. 

The last few years have proved a struggle for most small businesses, and the wine industry has been no exception. With the virtual collapse of the hospitality sector and 35-40 percent of our business disappearing overnight, we knew it was going to be a tough ride at Kahurangi. Thank goodness we have people on our team like Lynn Mabon. 

Photo by Martin de Ruyter, Stuff – Blend of innovation and marketing helps wine business flourish

Although the challenges just seem to keep coming, Lynn is proud of the way our small family-run business has managed to weather the worst of the storm. Have we pivoted, innovated and diversified? Yes, we certainly have! All that and more. But as Lynn says, ‘if plan A doesn’t work, you just need to go to plan B. Then keep moving through the alphabet until something does work.’

Fortunately for us, ever since Lynn joined Kahurangi twenty years ago, she has relished the challenges of working in the wine industry. As our logistics manager, one of Lynn’s key roles is to oversee staffing, making sure that everything is running smoothly. She understands the importance of looking after our small and loyal team — as Lynn puts it, ‘if you don’t look after your people it’s pretty hard to stay in business.’

In a constantly evolving environment, the relationships we’ve built up over many years are proving absolutely crucial. Lynn is our main point of contact with supermarkets and other outlets, but she also has close connections with many other people across the wine industry. The disruption of ‘trade as we know it’ has also meant forging a whole lot of new relationships — and quickly. 

Lynn is swift to point out that ‘coming together as a New Zealand wine industry’ has been absolutely essential for survival. We’ve constantly pulled together to look outside of the square for answers that benefit everyone.

Photo by Martin de Ruyter, Stuff – Blend of innovation and marketing helps wine business flourish

One of the big challenges Kahurangi has faced over the last couple of years has been the dramatic shift to online shopping. If you’re one of those people who has suddenly found themselves buying wine online for the first time, you are not alone. Fortunately, we were able to launch our Kahurangi website very early during the first lockdowns and followed that up late last year with Bring a Bottle. We wanted to be able to deliver customers a great selection of wine from all around the world — even if they could only enjoy it at home. 

Lynn says one of the best perks of her job is getting to sample wines from all over the world. She really enjoys working with fellow director David Barrett to choose suitable wines for our portfolio. Our virtual wine tastings, which have happened a lot more during Covid, are a lot of fun. We’re always on the lookout for quality wines that our customers will love, and at a great price. 

Although we pay close attention to the awards that wines have won, our networks play a really important role as well. We do get a few duds coming our way, but you never know when somebody is going to give you a tip off about something lovely. And these days it’s not just wine — our portfolio includes a small range of beer, cider and kombucha as well.

In spite of her long association with the industry, Lynn doesn’t consider herself a wine expert at all. She hates being asked to order when she’s out for dinner with friends — even if she does usually get it right. At home, Lynn confesses, she tends to stick to the old adage: Aussie for reds and Kiwi for whites. 

Of course, when it comes to recommending a white wine, Lynn is completely biased. As a member of the Nelson Winegrowers Association Lynn is fiercely loyal to Nelson wines: ‘People rave about Marlborough wines, but the annoying thing is they’re often made from Nelson grapes. 60 percent of our crop goes over the hill!’ As Lynn points out, Nelson is a fantastic place for growing grapes and we have lots of award-winning wines, we just need to keep spreading the word. Her tip when shopping is to keep a lookout for the little green ‘Taste Nelson’ stickers. It’s a quick way to find a bottle of Nelson wine if you’re in a hurry. 

Lynn’s favourite wine is a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or Rosé. She loves Chinese food and usually opts for a Pinot Gris to match — Kahurangi of course. 

In spite of all the extra dramas of the last few years, Lynn still loves being part of the New Zealand wine industry: ‘You never have a chance to get bored, that’s for sure,’ she laughs. When you work with wine, you always need to be looking ahead and planning for the future. You can never control everything — like getting way too much rain in February — but if you think on your feet, and have great people, you can always come up with a plan. And it doesn’t always need to be plan A, just so long as it works.

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