OUR WINE REGIONS
Out here on the most easterly tip of New Zealand’s North Island, our region revels in a classic Pacific maritime climate. Sheltered by hills and mountain ranges to the North and North West, Gisborne’s warm dry climate is moderated by the nearby ocean, with the cooling afternoon sea breezes, typical of many of the world’s great wine growing regions. These breezes preserve natural acidity and tropical fruit flavours. Fine clay and silt loam soils create full flavoured aromatic wines with a haunting marine note, thanks to the nearby ocean.
Historically recognised as one of the ‘fruit-bowls’ of New Zealand, the region’s golden climate creates an abundance of other produce – citrus, stone- and kiwifruit, avocados and a wide variety of vegetables including tomatoes, sweet corn, squash and leafy greens of every type.
One of the key strengths of the Gisborne Wine Growing region is that with kind spring rainfalls and a long dry summer, in combination with our soils, allows dry farming of a wide range of grape varieties. The vast majority of the meaningful Gisborne vineyards are not irrigated, nor do these vineyards use overhead sprinklers for frost control.
Our region receives only approximately 980mm of rainfall a year. It is our unique soil types and climate which take this resource and uses it to its best advantage. The young soils with high moisture holding content are based on silken clays and fine silt loams and have the ability to amass very high levels of microbial activity. These balance the available nutrients to the plants so that the vines very seldom descend into a state of stress which leads to unbalanced fruit composition needing correction.
Few regions in New Zealand compete with the sheer diversity of varieties produced in Gisborne:
White wines range from classic central European grapes like Chardonnay and Viognier to aromatic Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, and newer varieties like Arneis and Albariño.
The red wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley love living here too, notably including Merlot, Malbec and Syrah.
Throw in heaps of sunshine, a lush landscape and our relaxed lifestyle, and this really is a special destination for wine lovers…
Gisborne’s wine region is made up of several distinct growing areas, each with its own unique soil and climatic features.
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.