By Phil Parker - wine writer.
Phil runs wine tours in Auckland see: http://www.finewinetours.co.nz/
Gisborne, known as the Chardonnay Capital of NZ, and the first city in the world to see the dawn light, produces over 26,000 tonnes of grapes and is our third largest wine region. Right on the Pacific east Coast, it is a Mecca for surfers, scuba divers and fishermen as well as a few intrepid wine fans.
Denis Irwin set up his Matawhero Wine label in the mid-1970s using a small part of the grapes his father Bill grew and sold to other Gisborne wineries. Success followed quickly with both Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay wines attracting national and international attention. The 1977 Matawhero Gewürztraminer achieved fourth in a wine show in Paris.
Denis sold most of the business in 2004 but still operates his renowned wine bar and restaurant ‘The Colosseum’ at 185 Riverpoint Road, Matawhero, where he keeps a back catalogue of some of his best vintages for the wine list.
2009 Gisborne Arneis $26
The Arneis grape’s (pron. Are-nace) historical home is Piedmont in Northern Italy, and is a difficult variety to grow. The grapes only achieve fruit ripeness at very high sugar levels, which means they need to be well managed, thinned and crop-reduced. This is a high alcohol wine at 14.5%. Aromas of herbs, citrus and white grape juice, with crisp mineral flavours and a hint of oregano.
2009 Gisborne Chardonnay $26 The grapes for this wine were sourced from Paul and Jenny Tietjens’ vineyard on back Ormond road in the ‘Golden Slope’ region in Gisborne. The vineyard was selected for its rich history in producing premium Chardonnay. This is a suitably outstanding Chardonnay to represent the region. Rich, complex and ripe, with peach and melon flavours, some balanced acidity and lovely toasty oak, which lingers on the palate.
2009 Gisborne Merlot $26 The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Patutahi region just across the river from Matawhero. Probably a tad young, it has fairly assertive tannins – but these will settle down given three years or so. There are complex flavours of sweet black berry fruits and black currant, with a bit of Black Doris plum and some oak in the mix, and a dry finish.