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A Christchurch testing laboratory has partnered with an American firm to provide hi-tech wine testing services in a bid to snare the Kiwi wine industry, according to

Hill Laboratories started as a two-person operation in Hamilton in 1984 and now employs 300 people nationwide with four labs in the North Island city and another in Christchurch. The laboratories service the agriculture and food industries and also provide results testing for environmental monitoring.

Managing director and co-founder Roger Hill, of Cambridge, met the owner of California-based ETS Laboratories, which does a lot of analysis for the Napa Valley wine industry, at a conference and was encouraged to look into the sector.

In partnership with ETS, Hill Laboratories moved into wine industry analysis in New Zealand, spending about $1 million setting up a new department at its six-year-old Christchurch branch.

Hill Laboratories leased the adjoining space in its existing Hornby building and employed three more lab technicians, a technologist and former Lincoln University oenology lecturer Kirsten Creasy as the resident wine expert.

The Wine Lab service was announced at the wine industry’s Romeo Bragato conference in August. It officially launched two weeks ago with a roadshow to the country’s wine regions.

The lab is the first to offer complete analysis for wine companies from the vine to the finished wine, South Island branch manager Sue Davison said.

The lab could test the soil, the water, the leaves, fruit and wine to ensure companies had the information to manage their growing and winemaking operations, she said.

Creasy said the rapid DNA analysis – which ETS shared with Wine Lab – takes 48 hours compared with the two-week delay of plate culture tests and was more accurate.

“It’s so powerful, this tool. When you show winemakers this they get really excited because they can see everything that’s in their wine.

“New Zealand winemakers are really keen on using research and innovation in winemaking, more so than any other country I’ve worked in.”

Most response had come from Marlborough, which produces the lion’s share of Kiwi wine, as well as Hawke’s Bay and Waipara, she said.

Hill Laboratories expects the wine lab to become a “one- stop shop” for Kiwi wine companies and will employ another four people in the next three years.

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