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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wine Region: Gisborne

Appellation - Gisborne
Sub-appellation(s) - Central Valley, Golden Slope, Manutuke, Ormond Valley, Patutahi, Patutahi Plateau, Waipaoa.
- New Zealand (NE North Island); 38th parallel.
Size - 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres).
Rainfall - 1,000 mm/yr (40 in/yr).
Growing Degree Days - 1500
Varietals - Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewrztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Muller Thurgau, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Semillon, and Viognier.
Claim to Fame - "Chardonnay capital of New Zealand"; internationally recognized Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.Gisborne is the third largest growing region in New Zealand, behind only Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. Commercial wine was first produced in the 1920's under German winemaker Friedrich Wohnsiedler, but Gisborne's fertile soils allowed heavy cropping varietals to flourish, quickly giving the area a reputation for low quality wine. The 1970's brought big change to Gisborne; Phylloxera arrived and led to the replanting of most vineyards, Montana and Corbans moved into Gisborne, and Matawhero wines won several accolades in Europe for Gisborne Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Now, Gisborne has all but shed its reputation for low quality, bulk wine production and is home to over 20 wineries, including Montana, Vinoptima, Milton, Bushmere Estate, and TW Wines. Gisborne is best known for its Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, sparkling base wines, and aromatic white wines, though recent focus on red wine production has began increasing quality of varietals like Merlot and Malbec. The Ormond Valley and Golden Slope sub-appellations are located northwest of Gisborne. The area is a mixture of silt and clay loams with relatively high calcium levels. Ormond Valley is quite narrow and hilly, producing sites with unique microclimates that lead to tightly structured and balanced Chardonnays and Viogniers. The Golden Slope is a 10 kilometer stretch, consisting of small sites elevated along the sloping hills. Most sites have fertile silt loam topsoil atop heavy Kaiti clay base. Broad palate weight and well-developed fruit flavors are seen in most wines from this region, which is the source of most award-winning Chardonnays from Gisborne.One-third of Gisborne's grape vines are planted in the Patutahi region, which is best known for its quality Gewurztraminer, as well as Chardonnay and Semillon. Due to geographic orientation, it receives significantly less rainfall during the growing season than most areas in Gisborne (Ormond gets almost three times more). This, couple with the mixture of silt loam and clay loam soils, allow Patutahi fruit to become fragant, flavorful wines with broad palate. The newly developed Patutahi Plateau region, just to the east of Patutahi, has more clay-influenced soils and has been turning heads for its powerful Gewurztraminers and late harvest Semillon. Manutuke is the oldest of Gisborne's seven sub-appellations, and is primarily an earlier ripening region used for sparkling base wines. Its proximity to the ocean also encourages botyritis cinerea, allowing excellent late harvest wines to be produced in certain vintagers. The high silt and calcium content soils along the rivers produce soft, mineral-driven fruit, while the vineyards further from the rivers have high Kaiti clay content and produce full-bodied Chardonnays. The Milton Vineyard, the internationally acclaimed biodynamic winery, calls Manutuke its home.The Central Valley is the largest of Gisborne's sub-appellations and home to Matawhero wines, who put Gisborne Gewurztraminer on the map in the 1970's. Well-draining silty soils allow vines to flourish here, allowing fruit to reach a high level of maturity. Most of the Central Valley's fruit is destined for sparkling base wines, though the small Riverpoint Road area is well-known for its fruit-forward, spicey, and complex Chardonnays and Gewurztraminers. Riverpoint Road receives the cooling effects of the ocean that travel up the valley at night and cool the hot daytime temperatures.

Reviews of Gisborne Wines - Hihi 2007 Gisborne Viognier , Millton 2007 Riverpoint Chardonnay, Longbush 2007 Tui Viognier, Montana 2007 Terrior Series Waihirere Chardonnay.


  1. Really enjoying your Blog coverage of New Zealand whats your email address ?

  2. Thanks, glad to hear someone is reading it. Sorry for the delayed response. I'm on holiday at the moment. You can e-mail me at

  3. I see you haven't mentioned KEW as one of the wineries in gisborne? For your information Bushmere & TW are labels not wineries? we actually make all TW wine and some of Bushemere Estate.


  4. KEW - I was using "wineries" to refer to wine brands in that instance, otherwise 20 wineries would be a bit of a stretch. Sorry it was a bit unclear and that you were not mentioned.

    KEW makes some good wines, check out there website. I particularly liked their Virgin Chardonnay and Reserve Malbec.