Gisborne's wine region is made up of several distinct growing areas, each with its own unique soil and climatic features. The key ones are described here. Outside these areas there is still more to discover, with vines planted and producing distinctive wines in Te Karaka, Waimata Valley, Tolaga Bay and Muriwai, along with a number of single vineyard sites.
A narrow 10km strip running across Ormond, Waihirere and Hexton, the Golden Slope is made up of small parcels of elevated sloping land. Medium to heavy Kaiti clay base material is overlaid with 20-30cm of light black topsoil, with influences from the limestone foothills. These conditions allow vines to grow with a balance suited to super-premium wine making.
This area is a mixture of silt and clay loam soils. Numerous premium wines have been produced from grapes grown here.
A mesoclimate of gentle slopes of high-calcified soils within a narrow valley, this area holds a fantastic record for single vineyard wines. Soils are similar to the Golden Slopes, containing areas of Kaiti clay that balance the vines. This appellation is known for producing rich golden wines with broad palate weight and intense fruit flavours.
Gisborne's oldest wine-growing region, with grapes first planted in the late 1890s. Manutuke has mainly silt soils with good drainage and areas of Kaiti clay closer to the hills. During summer, there is a cooling effect from the sea breeze. In late autumn, the warmth of the river's water against the cool night air can give rise to mist. This contributes to ideal conditions for the formation of Botrytis Cineria, creating dense, sweet late harvested wine. The silt loam soils close to the river are varied, light and have high calcium levels - creating wines of finesse. Further from the river the soils become heavy and complex - ideally suited to full-bodied Chardonnay and Viognier.
This area covers Waerenga-o-Hika, Makaraka, Makauri and Matawhero. The northern areas are made up of a mixture of clay loam and silt soils, ensuring consistent qualities across the blocks. The Waipaoa River exerts a profound influence as it meanders its way through the valley, providing deep silt soils on its margins.
Riverpoint is the part of the Central Valley that receives the Pacific Coast's cooling sea breezes to temper the heat of summer. The soils consist of free-draining silt loams that allow fruit to ripen well, with consistently high fruit sugar levels.
Patutahi is home to more than one third of Gisborne's vines and produces richly flavoured, award winning wines. Large parcels of consistent Kaiti clay soils allow premium viticulture on quite a large scale. Soils are predominantly a 50/50 combination of silt and clay loam. Patutahi receives 30% less rainfall during the growing season.
The Patutahi Plateau runs west from Kaimoe Road back towards the surrounding hills and is one of the youngest growing areas within the Gisborne appellation. Already showing significant promise, the Kaiti clay loam soils in this growing area have produced premium, richly flavoured, award winning wines. It is generally warmer and drier than other Gisborne growing areas.
Waipaoa is protected from cool seas breezes and coastal showers. A heat trap caused by a natural narrowing of the valley, combined with the clay soils found in this area, produce wines with riper fruit flavours and warm honeyed complexity. Vineyards are most situated close to the Waipaoa River on lighter more free draining soils with vines being highly productive.