Photo Courtesy Millton Vineyards & Winery
By Justine Tyerman
Contributor Justine Tyerman shares her love of the top Gisborne wineries, producers of world-class reds and award winning whites
Gisborne’s high sunshine hours and fertile soils produce a diverse range of wines, from full-flavoured and fruit-driven, to critically-acclaimed biodynamic classics.
The self-proclaimed chardonnay capital of the world, pinot gris is the region's second largest wine variety. We also produce magnificent rosé... and bubbly, my favourites.
To help you make the most of your North Island wine experience, here are just a few of the top Gisborne wineries whose world-class wines we think you should try. Enjoy!
TW Wines is a partnership between two old mates, grape growers Paul Tietjen and Geordie Witters, that dates back to a fishing trip at Lake Waikaremoana in 1997 where a few bottles of wine were no doubt consumed.
Their vineyards have a blessed location on a narrow, five-kilometre strip between Ormond and Hexton similar in terroir to the Côte d’Or region in France – hence the name Golden Slope, the region where most of Gisborne's gold medal-winning chardonnays are grown. Twenty years on, their wines epitomise what the world has come to expect of New Zealand wine – power, complexity, elegance, and excellent cellaring potential.
Since the 1998 vintage, grapes from the two vineyards have won more than 40 national and international medals, including nine golds, and two trophies: the 1997 National Wine Show of Australia and the 1998 Air New Zealand Wine Awards.
These two colourful characters are our neighbours, so we are fortunate to have sampled a few glasses of TW over the years. I love the way they talk about wine. The words create pictures.
“Chardonnay with concentrated aromas of golden peach, sweet pineapple and creamy toasted hazelnut; pinot gris with nuances of pear, orange blossom and marzipan; rosé perfumed with white lily and raspberry essence; deep garnet red carmenere with aromas of black plum compote, allspice and fruit cake, velvety smooth with flavours of vanilla and dark berries . . .”
"Our wines are hand-crafted along The Golden Slope. Gisborne’s very own Cote d’Or."
You get the picture! To learn more about TW Wines, visit their website at www.twwines.co.nz
Millton Vineyards and Winery
James and Annie Millton established Millton Vineyards and Winery in 1984 on the banks of the Te Arai River near Manutuke, where early settlers first planted grapevines in 1871. A small family artisan winegrower, Millton’s was the first producer in New Zealand to gain Bio-Gro certification for organic wine production in 1989.
They gained the biodynamic certification, Demeter, in 2009, which involves growing grapes without the use of herbicide, insecticide, systemic fungicides, or soluble fertilisers. It also incorporates the use of herbal, mineral and animal preparations, as well as a deep understanding of the ‘complex cosmic rhythms’ which affect these daily activities. Millton Vineyards and Winery are members of international biodynamic group La Renaissance des Appellations and the New Zealand collaboration The Family of Twelve.
Milltons wines have won multiple international awards and their Chenin Blanc is regarded as a new-world wine classic gaining inclusion in Neil Beckett's 1001 Wines to Drink Before you Die, published by Penguin in 2008.
James is an erudite fellow and an accomplished orator. I love to listen to him speak about growing grapes and making wine. It’s like poetry.
"I believe the terroir gives the wine the flavours and character. We do not disguise nor dress up the unique character with outside influences or winemaking manipulations. To myself, therefore, the soil and climate play the major role in our wines. We are merely the caretakers of the fruits of our labours. Our wines give an expression of the natural flavours found in the grapes harvested from our vineyards.”
To read more about James and Annie Milton’s winery, visit www.millton.co.nz
Long before Marlborough and Central Otago were established as winegrowing regions, Gisborne had already gained an international winemaking reputation. In the late 1960s, Bill Irwin established Matawhero Vineyards and was instrumental in introducing new varieties that were to change the country’s viticultural landscape.
Following in Bill’s pioneering footsteps, son Denis imparted his own colourful, adventurous style and won fame for his gewürztraminer and chardonnay. Everyone was drinking it back then… even Queen Elizabeth.
The vineyard and winery were purchased in 2008 by current owners Richard and Kirsten Searle who replanted and revitalised the operation. Matawhero wines have won many awards and accolades since then.
The secret is the climate and soils, says Kirsten.
“Our region has good spring rainfall and a long dry summer. In combination with our soils, this allows for dry farming of a wide range of grape varieties. With just under a 1000mm of rainfall a year, our unique soil types, silken clay and fine silt loams, have high moisture- holding contents and the ability to amass very high levels of microbial activity to ensure the plants stay in balance during the season.
“We rely on our natural rainfall to grow our grapes. Our vines entrench themselves deeply and are exposed to the true terroir of our land, allowing us to make distinctive fruit-driven wines with weight and intensity. Just think about the difference between a hot-house hydroponically grown tomato and a field grown one!”
You can learn more about Matawhero Wines on their website at https://matawhero.co.nz/
After over 20 years as multi award-winning head winemaker at one of New Zealand’s biggest companies, Steve Voysey started his own label in 2007 with only one thing in mind... to make the best wine he could, every time.
Steve and his wife Eileen developed a branded range of their own called Spade Oak wines, starting with the limited release of a Gisborne Chardonnay and Viognier from the 2007 vintage.
The creation of their own label kindled a passion for the brand to see where this might take them. For Steve and Eileen, it also meant the freedom to make wine as they wanted to, without the demands of a large company with multiple offerings at every price point.
“It’s about capturing the magic of each vintage in the bottle. I’m not interested in making show wines, or in making a lesser product in order to hit a rock-bottom price target,” says Steve. “Spade Oak wines are what I want to drink. I’m not afraid to miss a vintage if the grapes aren’t up to scratch.”
The Spade Oak brand is spreading far and wide and is now available from Queenstown to Whangarei. The newest addition to the fold is the sparkling “Le Champ” which has just come to the market... a "natural” for the winemaker who helped make Montana Lindauer so famous.
The accolades and awards fill pages, but for Steve and Eileen, these ones stand out:
- The 2012 China Awards, Best NZ Wine Producer for the 2009 Noble Viognier with double golds for that and the 2010 Viognier
- The 2018 Cuisine tasting where the 2017 Pinot Gris got a 5 Star Rating.
Steve is now a consultant winemaker and his services are used by a number of Gisborne wineries. He's also in high demand as a senior wine judge. It’s his skill as a winemaker that makes Spade Oak special.
“Enjoyment of the glass of wine, family, friends and food are all important to us. Savour every glass!” he says.
To learn more, visit the Spade Oak winery website at www.spadeoak.co.nz
Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist, and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at www.just-write.co.nz and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.