The Gisborne Wine Region can be found in the most easterly region of New Zealand’s North Island. Gisborne has a rich wine history and is an influential contributor to the New Zealand wine industry. Gisborne has the claim of being where the Maori migratory Waka ‘Horouta’ first landed, also where Captain James Cook made his first landfall on New Zealand in 1769. It is said that the first efforts at making wine was a bit of an accident; with some 'holy brothers' thinking they were in Hawke’s Bay and planted vines - I would say a happy accident.
The vineyards are sheltered by a mountain range to the North and North West, with Gisborne’s warm dry climate also regulated by the nearby Pacific ocean, with cooling afternoon sea breezes, making this an ideal grape growing regions.
Fine clay and silt loam soils create full flavoured aromatic wines with a beguiling fresh note, thanks to the nearby ocean. Kind spring rainfalls and a long dry summer, combined with both alluvial and heavier clay soils, allows dry farming for a wide range of grape varietals, most notably Chardonnay, for which Gisborne has long been famous.
Gisborne’s winemaking history has solid begins in 1920s - 1950s where German-born immigrants began to produce wines in the region. In the 1960s, Gisborne became a relative powerhouse for wine production, and by the end of the decade, the Wohnseidler Wine Company was producing 2 million litres of wine per year. Large producers in the region included Wohnseidler, Cooks, Montana and Corbans. In the late 1960’s, the modern era of grape growing in Gisborne began, when Corbans and Montana started offering contracts to local farmers to grow grapes.
At the beginning of the 1970s there was the arrival of the avant-garde Matawhero Winery, putting Gisborne on the global wine map with their international award-winning Gewürztraminer. By 1982 Gisborne was the largest vineyard region in the country. At the same time, locally-owned wineries began to build a new reputation for Gisborne with their innovative, quality boutique wines - with Millton Vineyard establishing the first biodynamic vineyard in the Southern Hemisphere.
Today Gisborne is now the fourth largest wine growing region in the country and internationally wine lovers continue to be impressed by the variety and quality of wines that come out this region. Gisborne's wine region is made up of several distinct growing areas, each with its own unique soil and climatic features.
The key sub-regions with vines include: The ‘Golden Slope’ wine area and ‘Ormond’ area; the ‘Manutuke’ area is Gisborne's oldest wine-growing region, with grapes first planted in the late 1890s. Riverpoint is the part of the Central Valley region and the ‘Patutahi’ area is home to more than one third of Gisborne's vines. The ‘Patutahi Plateau’ is one of the youngest growing areas within the Gisborne appellation and the ‘Waipaoa’ wine area. Now recently new vines plantings and distinctive wines are being produced in Te Karaka, Waimata Valley, Tolaga Bay and Muriwai.
As of 2013 the Gisborne wine region had 1608 hectares of vines planted in the area: Chardonnay 794ha, Merlot 71ha, Sauvignon Banc 47ha and Aromatics with 536ha (Pinot Gris 338ha, Gewürztraminer 109ha, Viognier 47ha and Muscat 42ha). Other experimental varietals include Arneis, Albariño, Verdelho, Semillon, Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache Pinotage and Pinot Noir used for both sparkling wine production and can make interesting Rosé style wines. In 2013 the Gisborne wine area had 21 registered wineries (out of a national total of 698) and over 50 independent grape growers, accounting for 15.6% of the New Zealand’s wine production in tonnes.
Gisborne is the first place in the world to see the new days first light - they will welcome you to their unique wine region, a special place tucked away on the East Coast of New Zealand. The wineries, restaurants and relaxed locals promise you a truly unforgettable experience and the legendary beaches and stunning scenery offer a uniquely relaxing holiday - whether you're visiting for a few days - or longer.