Gisborne is now the fifth biggest wine region in New Zealand with 1190 hectares of grapes, which is less than it had just three years ago when its total was 1246 hectares. It’s an even bigger decline from 2010 when the Gisborne wine region had over 2000 hectares and was the third largest wine region in this country. What has changed to reduce the volume of vineyards planted in the Gisborne region so significantly in the past decade?
The region may have shrunk in quantity but it has grown in both quality and diversity. It’s long been known as the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand but high volume wines have also traditionally defined this sunny region.
Today, by contrast, this region is a hot bed of experimentation with many small wine producers, such as this week’s Hihi Wines, which makes interesting different styles from relatively unknown grape varieties, such as Albarino and Malbec, both of which are growing in popularity and good quality around the country. Most of these success stories begin in Gisborne, which is home to the country’s biggest vine nursery, Riversun, the gateway to New Zealand for interesting new grapes to this country’s national vineyard area. The region is the first to see the sun each morning in New Zealand. It’s also the first to see new varieties survive and thrive or not. And it’s thanks to winemakers like Andrew Nimmo of Hihi, who is testing the waters with interesting newcomers.
He also makes some stunning Chardonnays, without high price tags to match. Such as this week’s tasty line up.
This wine has all the bells and whistles from full malolactic fermentation, which intentionally softens wines, adding creamy flavours due to the conversion of malic acid (naturally found in grapes) to creamy lactic acids, which we know and love in cheese. This wine is made from grapes grown on Adam Brodie’s vineyard in Matawhero. It was fermented in barrels under temperature control and has American and French oak additions to add structure and smoothness.
This Gisborne bubbly comes with a crown seal and pays homage to the world’s most popular white grape, Chardonnay, which makes up 100% of this big buttery sparkling wine. It is dry with flavours of fresh bread from time on yeast lees which add depth and flavour to this great value wine.
This wine not only tastes good, it’s fun to drink, thanks to the name, which gives wine lovers a clue about which grape is the most important one in Gisborne - Chardonnay. This wine is dry, soft, smooth and creamy from winemaker Andy Nimmo at Hihi Wines.
Pinot Gris is incredibly popular due to wines such as this light bodied, off dry white with its eight grams of residual sugar per litre. It was made from grapes grown on Lincoln and Anita Ellmers vineyard in Te Karaka and was fermented in stainless steel at cool temperatures to produce a fresh fruit forward wine, which expresses ripe Pinot Gris flavours of pears and peach.
Joelle Thomson is a wine writer, journalist and author. She’s an avid lover of wine and currently writes for Capital magazine, Good magazine, NZ Winegrower, Drinksbiz, and her own site,www.joellethomson.com.
She also teaches, works in radio, and more, so we've enlisted her help to sniff out our amazing value wines!