Gisborne is a relatively remote region on the most easterly point of the north island of New Zealand. Gisborne claims Captain Cook’s first landfall, as well as being the first place in New Zealand to see the sunrise. The region is named after the region’s main town (2013 population 43,000). In the 1960s Gisborne became the country’s second major vineyard area to develop (after Auckland), conveniently having space for mechanisable large-scale vineyards at a time of rising national wine consumption. Montana (now Pernod Ricard NZ), Penfolds and Corbans all built wineries here. The next major region to develop in New Zealand would be Marlborough in the early 1970s.
Vineyard area: 2016 Gisborne was New Zealand’s third largest region. 1,350 hectares (3,334 acres) produced 16,000 tonnes which equated to 4% of NZ tonnage. Chardonnay was the main variety with 664 hectares (1,640 acres). Aromatic whites included Pinot Gris with 343 hectares (847 acres), Gewürztraminer with 44 hectares (108 acres) and Viognier with 29 hectares (72 acres). There were also 73 hectares (180 acres) of Merlot and 71 hectares (175 acres) of Sauvignon Blanc.
Climate: High sunshine hours (2,180 hours of sun annually) and a warm climate (regularly recording the highest sunshine hours and temperatures in the country) see Gisborne’s grapes often the first to be harvested in New Zealand. Late summer/autumn rainfall (1,051mm rainfall / 41.3 inches annually) can be a challenge. Susy Atkins (March 1996, p.43.) says Gisborne ‘is reckoned to be one of by many to be one of New Zealand’s most difficult regions. Not only is there a strong north-west wind battering the vineyards, but damp and disease are supposed to be rife.’
Soil: The youthful, very hilly landscape fans out into the lush lowland flood plains of the Waipaoa River. This diversity provides a mix of clay and silt loams, along with fine silt river loams (ideal for aromatic wines) and heavier clay soils on the plains (suiting fleshier wine styles). Site selection has moved away from the highly fertile flood loams towards higher, free-draining sections of the plains and foothills.
Wines: Gewürztraminer is renowned. Also Riesling and Chenin Blanc. Promising Pinot Gris and Viognier. Chardonnay can be rich, aromatic, and ages well. | Sauvignon Blanc shows tropical flavours, broad palates. Also Sémillon. Reds from Merlot, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Pinotage.
Other styles: Sparkling, fortified and dessert styles.
Certified Biodynamic: The Millton Vineyard.
Certified organic, Biodynamic practices: Tiritiri.
Certified organic: Wrights Wines.
Susy Atkins, No artificial Ingredients,’ Wine Magazine, March 1996, p.42-3.