The Gisborne Story
East Coast, Tairawhiti, Tūranganui-A-Kiwa, Poverty Bay, The Coast, Gisborne and just good old Gizzy to us locals, this is a place with a lot of names. And a lot of history. This is where the Maori migratory waka Horouta first landed, and where Captain James Cook made his first New Zealand landfall in 1769. And it turns out the wine was a bit of a mistake; some holy brothers thought they were in Hawkes Bay and planted vines. Serendipitous or what?
In 1921, German-born Friedrich Wohnsiedler started a successful winery near Gisborne. By the time he died in 1958, Waihirere Wines was one of New Zealand's biggest producers.
1920s – 1950s
Three local families dominated the Gisborne scene: the Wohnseidlers at Ormond the Chittys at Hexton, and the Zame family at Mangapapa.
In the sixties, Gisborne became a powerhouse. By the end of the decade, the Wohnseidler Wine Company was producing 2 million litres of wine per year. Big yields on the higher cropping grapes gave us the reputation as a "bulk wine" distributor. Huge plantings undertaken by landowners cashing in on the market.
The big names now were Wohnseidler, Cooks, Montana and Corbans. Some of the multi-award winning "Cooks Chardonnay" wines were made from Gisborne fruit. In the late Sixties, the modern era of grape growing in Gisborne began, when Corbans and Montana started offering contracts to local farmers to grow vines on their behalf.
The 70s kicked off with Montana and Corbans opening wineries in Gisborne. Meanwhile, the maverick Matawhero Winery was putting Gisborne on the global map with their internationally award-winning Gewurztraminer. It’s not our way to brag out here on the Coast, but the Queen drank this wine…
1980s – 1990s
By ‘82 Gisborne was the largest vineyard region in the country. A few years later Montana bought out Penfolds and merged it into the Montana group along with Waiherere, the former Wohnseidler Wine Company that had started it all.
At the same time, locally-owned wineries began to build a new reputation for Gisborne with their output of innovative, quality boutique wines. Matawhero continued their dream run, winning more awards for their Gisborne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Millton Vineyard established the first biodynamic vineyard in the Southern Hemisphere and won substantial accolades for their wines. Parker MC and White Cliffs (today known as Longbush) began production too.
The boutique wineries' superb vintages saw them win trophies and golds at international and local competitions, while the "big three", Montana, Corbans and Villa Maria, produced some outstanding smaller volume wines.
Wine still flourishes out here; Gisborne is the fourth largest wine growing region in the country. Wine writers, judges and everyday wine lovers continue to be impressed by the quality and variety of wines that come out of our region. Is there a kiwi anywhere who hasn't raised a glass of Lindauer to their lips after singing for he's a jolly good fellow? Probably not. And those grapes come from here too.
Throw in our legendary beaches - we've also created our fair share of world-class surfers - our laid back lifestyle and jaw-dropping scenery and, as we like to say in these parts, she's a beauty. Get down here and meet some of the local characters who make these wines, lounge on our beaches, soak up some of our sun. It's a holiday you'll never forget.
Until you do, open anything that says " Gisborne" on the label and taste the love we put into our wines.