THE LANDSCAPE OF
NEW ZEALAND WINE KEVIN JUDD
WITH BOB CAMPBELL
FOR KOHEN AND ALEX
PINOT NOIR LEAF
UPPER NORTH ISLAND
Shafts of sunlight over the Wairau Valley, Marlborough
FOREWORD PHILIP GREGAN CEO, NEW ZEALAND WINEGOWERS
Humankind came late to New Zealand, arriving in this remote land—the last significant landmass on the globe to be settled—less than 1000 years ago. The first wines were produced less than 200 years ago, though the modern New Zealand wine industry is even younger, emerging just a generation ago in the 1970s as increased global travel drove demand for food and beverages more interesting and varied than our colonial heritage had bequeathed us.
Today the New Zealand wine industry is still very young, with exports of wine beginning seriously only in the mid to late 1980s. Since then New Zealand has become internationally known as a producer dedicated to the highest quality standards, with one style in particular, Marlborough sauvignon blanc, becoming the global benchmark for the variety. That success has seen international wine tourists flock to New Zealand, and regional names such as Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago now resonate with wine-lovers globally as surely as do regions of the Northern Hemisphere with centuries of winemaking traditions. The winemakers and grape-growers in this land reflect the country in which they operate. They are not bound by tradition and are willing, above all else, to experiment to see what will work best in this new winemaking territory. Their aim is to produce wines of the highest international quality that quintessentially reflect their origins. This superb book showcases so much that is intrinsic to grape-growing and winemaking in New Zealand. The clarity of the work reflects a very deep and personal knowledge of the land and the wine industry that has sprung so proudly from it.
Mt Tapuae-O-Uenuku and vineyards, awatere valley, marlborough
INTRODUCTION BOB CAMPBELL MW connection between scenic splendour and quality wine, and many of New Zealand’s best wines are made in spectacularly beautiful regions. Even our first viticulturist picked a vineyard with a view. When Samuel Marsden planted the country’s first vines in 1819 he chose a spot in the Bay of Islands that makes property developers salivate; he picked Kerikeri, with views down a tidal estuary towards one of the country’s most picturesque collections of small islands.
There is a strong
I know that selecting a great vineyard site is all about soil analysis and the careful review of seasonal temperatures over past decades. However, looking at the splendid locations featured in this book, I refuse to believe that distant snow-capped hills, the sweep of an azure bay or the dark majesty of a slate-covered hillside aren’t part of the equation. Perhaps, after studying the climatic and soil data, the potential vineyard owner surveyed the countryside with glass of wine in hand and thought, ‘Bugger it, I’ll give it a go.’ If he’d been looking at boggy pastureland alongside an industrial estate, his decision might have gone the other way. Great wine is about art and beauty and romance. As a winemaker, Kevin Judd knows that great wine is also about a strong sense of place. A top Marlborough sauvignon blanc has a clear regional fingerprint etched into its exuberantly pungent aroma. Sip a Central Otago pinot noir and it’s possible to visualise its birthplace on a rugged hillside. As a photographer, Kevin has succeeded in capturing the very essence of New Zealand’s wine landscape. His photos dramatically express the unique features of each region, features that are embedded in their wines.
When New Zealand’s modern winemaking era began in the late 1960s or early 1970s our wines and wineries lacked confidence and identity. We shamelessly borrowed European terms such as claret, chablis, burgundy, sauternes and champagne, and built wineries that would look more at home in the Mediterranean. As our wines grew in quality they also grew in Kiwi-ness. Winemakers and wine drinkers began to identify unique regional characters: sinewy Waiheke reds, pungent Gisborne gewurztraminer, peppery syrah from Hawke’s Bay, dense pinot noir from Martinborough with the unmistakable suggestion of Black Doris plum, Marlborough sauvignon blanc with its intriguing contrast of tropical and vegetal flavours, sleek Nelson chardonnay, pinot noir with a haunting perfume in Waipara and a seasoning of wild thyme in Central Otago. Confidence in the style and quality of our wines grew as they earned international recognition. Success in the competitive export market demands that a country’s or region’s wines be distinctive and that they offer value. New Zealand wines passed both tests and demand snowballed. The fact that they now command a higher average bottle price in the United Kingdom marketplace than wines from any other country, and that sales to the UK continue to grow dramatically, confirms that New Zealand wines are held in high regard. Burgeoning export sales powered a dramatically expanding wine industry; the number of registered wine producers nearly doubled in the decade to 2009. New wineries are no longer decorated in Spanish-style plasterwork but have a distinctly New Zealand flavour, with corrugated iron a popular cladding. Modern architectural masterpieces
include Villa Maria’s Auckland winery, Craggy Range and Elephant Hill in Hawke’s Bay, Yealands in Marlborough and just about every Central Otago winery constructed in recent years. Wine trails in every region compete for the attention of local and overseas visitors. The best are peppered with excellent winery restaurants and comfortable vineyard accommodation. A journey from north to south along the eastern coast of New Zealand follows a sort of vinous pilgrimage through the country, with only a couple of diversions inland to visit Nelson and Central Otago. The most northerly vineyard is on the Karikari Peninsula, where you can enjoy a glass of wine and views along the eastern coast to North Cape, the most northerly point of the New Zealand mainland.
There are vineyards around Kaitaia as well, which can be explored en route to the Bay of Islands, the birthplace of New Zealand’s wine industry and one of the country’s most dramatically beautiful stretches of coastline. Northland wineries are few in number, individual in character and generous with their hospitality. The region and its wines have a strong link to the sea, which is never more than a few kilometres away.
Continuing south, Matakana, just one hour north of Auckland, is the next port of call. The area’s wineries are scattered on a stretch of land running from the coast inland to State Highway 1, the country’s main arterial route. Grapevines were planted here little more than 20 years ago, and farmland on rolling hills has given way to smaller lifestyle blocks with grand houses built by wealthy Aucklanders, increasingly surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Vineyards are also a feature of Auckland’s northern boundary on the rolling, verdant hills of Kumeu and Waimauku, and south of the city at Clevedon, where local winemakers claim their area boasts similar climate and soils to the more famous wine-growing area of Waiheke Island
in the Hauraki Gulf. The vineyards south of Auckland have mostly been established by city escapists, many of whom find that they need to keep their day job in order to support small-scale winemaking. By-passing isolated vineyards dotted around the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, the next stop is Gisborne on the East Cape, a jutting landmass that is the first part of New Zealand
lower terraces of the Awatere Valley, Marlborough
to get a peep of the sun each morning. Gold and green are the colours that fittingly dominate the Gisborne images— gold for the sunshine that Gisborne has in abundance, and green for the carpet of vines and pastureland. Young Nicks Head, Gisborne’s dominant geographical feature, is captured rising from a sea of vines in spectacular fashion by Kevin’s camera. Chardonnay is the region’s dominant grape variety, encouraging local growers to describe their region as ‘the chardonnay capital of New Zealand’. I regard gewurztraminer as the region’s true signature grape because Gisborne invented quality New Zealand gewurztraminer and still makes the country’s best.
distinctive chardonnay, more earnest than the charming wines of Gisborne and with riper flavours and greater flesh than more southerly examples. Hawke’s Bay sauvignon blanc is overshadowed by its more spectacular Marlborough cousin—it’s an under-appreciated style that deserves more recognition.
At the base of East Cape lies Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand’s second-largest wine region. Hawke’s Bay marks a turning point in terms of climate, being New Zealand’s southerly border for the Bordeaux grape varieties cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot—that is, if you want to get your grapes reliably ripe in every vintage. Good examples of wines from these varieties are made further south but only in carefully selected, warmer sites and not successfully every year. Syrah is perhaps the region’s greatest triumph, although the variety can also perform with distinction further south in Martinborough. The Bay makes
wines from the Bordeaux red varieties that thrive further north, but they can consistently make top wines from varieties that demand the cooler conditions found in the South Island, including riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. Winemaking is on a small scale here. Weekend winery visitors will often meet the owner, who, when he or she is not serving customers, is also viticulturist, winemaker, marketer and bottle-washer. Most of Martinborough’s wineries are within a few minutes walking distance of each other, while those further north are in two clusters around Masterton and Gladstone.
Still on the country’s eastern side but with a range of hills that isolates them from the coast, Wairarapa and its subregion of Martinborough lie on a curious vinous cusp between the warmer northerly and cooler southerly wine regions. In favourable vintages Wairarapa can make good
Poplar trees in vineyards near Fernhill, Hawke’s Bay
Across Cook Strait is Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region. It’s hard to imagine Marlborough without vineyards. You don’t have to know anything about vines or wine to sense that this is serious wine country. It just feels right. When grapevines were first planted here in 1973 many of the country’s existing winemakers doubted that Marlborough was a viable wine area. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Marlborough must be the world’s most successful new wine region. It has been so successful that every nook and cranny now seems to be planted with vines, most of which are sauvignon blanc. They carpet the Wairau Valley, creeping like mossy fingers up every tributary of this ancient riverbed as far as frost risk and water availability allow. Vines are now spreading even faster in the adjacent Awatere Valley, which, if it were a wine region in its own right, would be the country’s second largest, with the rest of Marlborough in very secure first place. Drive in a westerly direction for one-and-a-half hours and you reach Marlborough’s nearest wine neighbour, Nelson. The two regions couldn’t be more different. Marlborough is big, rapidly expanding and has a clear hero: sauvignon blanc. Nelson is populated by family winemakers, each quietly trying to make the best wine they can, and finding success in a broad range of grape varieties including chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and riesling. The country’s larger wine producers rarely consider Nelson as a potential source of grapes, perhaps because they’re distracted by the opportunities offered by its close neighbour. Visit Nelson and you’ll discover high-quality wines rarely sold outside the region, let alone the country. It’s an endearing and beautiful wine region that has much to offer the wine enthusiast in search of new tastes. Christchurch is a three-and-a-half-hour drive south of Marlborough on the eastern coast. Vineyards still thrive just outside the city limits although the real action is centred around Waipara, an hour’s drive north. Waipara Valley, like
Nelson, was a largely undiscovered vinous gem until a few years ago, when several large wineries either established their own vineyards there or began to buy grapes from local growers. Wine enthusiasts have recognised the quality of the region’s pinot noir, in particular, for many years, and increased supply means these wines are now being appreciated by a wider audience while a growing number of visitors tread the Waipara Valley wine trail. The more intrepid may even stumble across the hot new grapegrowing districts of Pyramid Valley and Weka Pass to the west and Cheviot to the north. Otago, our final destination, is the world’s most southerly wine region. It is also the highest and the only region with a true continental climate of short, hot summers and cold, hard winters. It’s also drop-dead gorgeous, as Kevin’s wonderful photos clearly show. The Otago images may seem unnaturally beautiful, but anyone who has risen before dawn to see the sun’s pink rays reflect off snowcapped peaks, or gazed at the reflections in Lake Wanaka just before the sun dips below the horizon will confirm that Kevin has, not by chance, captured the very essence of the region. During the 2009 vintage I joined Kevin on a photo shoot. It was pitch black when he collected me from my motel, and on a bitterly cold Marlborough morning we drove to the Awatere Valley. Kevin had previously scouted a location high on a cliff top looking across Clifford Bay to Cape Campbell. He wanted to capture the rays of the sun as it flooded the landscape. After feverishly driving up and down the vine rows he parked his four-wheel-drive vehicle and clambered onto the roof with a heavy camera and tripod. Settings were checked and double-checked until the scene was framed in the viewfinder. Then we waited. It took about 30 minutes before the sun began to peep over the horizon, casting long shadows that threw the
landscape into sharp, rose-tinted relief. Every minute the scene changed as the light got stronger. Kevin waited until I thought he’d missed the moment then calmly pressed the shutter, wound the film and pressed the shutter again for perhaps 15 minutes. Throughout the whole period he crouched like a statue, swivelling his head occasionally to measure the change of light on surrounding hills. A stiff breeze off the sea was creating some unwanted camera
movement but he was totally focused on capturing the perfect shot. I sensed that if a bomb had gone off he would not have heard it. One hour after our arrival he seemed satisfied. Climbing down from the car roof, he grinned and said, ‘Geez, bloody wind, three rolls for one picture … but I think I got it.’
Kevin Judd above Clifford Bay, Awatere Valley (photo Bob Campbell)
UPPER NORTH ISLAND
TASMAN SEA Gisborne
NELSON Nelson Blenheim
MARLBOROUGH that Te Rauparaha, intrepid Maori chief of the Ngati Toa tribe, defended his people’s claim to the Wairau plains so vigilantly when in 1843 the New Zealand Company proceeded to survey the valley, despite having not legally acquired the land. The vast alluvial flood plain, rivers and coastal regions of the Wairau provided an abundant food source for Maori. When these areas were eventually cultivated by Europeans, the fertile landscape sustained numerous forms of agriculture, though the young, silty and often parched soils of the Wairau were never as fruitful as they have become since the arrival of grapevines. It is little wonder
The region of Marlborough lies at the northeastern extremity of the South Island, immediately adjacent to Cook Strait and almost due west of Wellington. Much of Marlborough is mountainous, while an extensive proportion to the north is taken up by the Marlborough Sounds—an intricate maze of waterways that make up a fifth of New Zealand’s coastline. To the southwest of the Sounds the mountains gradually rise and eventually run into the Richmond Range, which forms the northwestern boundary of the Wairau Valley and provides the Marlborough wine region with its essential rain shadow. This geographical phenomenon is clearly visible, with the Richmond Range providing a dramatic, blue-green, heavily vegetated backdrop to the north, while the ranges on the southern side are barren and noticeably more arid. Marlborough enjoys a temperate, maritime climate with very high sunshine hours and sufficient heat to ripen specific grape varieties, yet without ever reaching excessively high daily maximum temperatures. The fruit ripens slowly, retaining incredible fruit intensity and an idyllic natural acid balance. Sauvignon blanc in particular thrives in this climate,
the Richmond Range with vineyards in the Wairau Valley
producing wines with remarkable fruit concentration and crisp acidity—powerfully aromatic wines that have caught the attention of the wine world. The first vines were planted in Marlborough in the 1870s by Scotsman David Herd on the Auntsfield property in the Ben Morven Valley, but it was another hundred years before modern winemaking arrived in the region. In 1973, at a time when it was widely thought that the South Island was incapable of ripening grapes, the first contemporary plantings were made by Montana Wines. These early plantings in the Wairau Valley were soon followed by others—Allen and Joyce Hogan with Te Whare Ra in the late 1970s; Ernie and Jane Hunter founded Hunter’s Wines; and Daniel and Adele Le Brun established Cellier Le Brun in the early 1980s. In 1985 David Hohnen of Cape Mentelle Vineyards in Western Australia set up Cloudy Bay, while the first wine company to open its doors in the Awatere Valley was Vavasour Wines in the late 1980s. The Wairau River starts life 170 kilometres inland, high in the Spenser Mountains. Initially it flows northwards past the Nelson Lakes National Park and then turns to the northeast to commence its long but very direct journey to the shores of Cloudy Bay. Vineyards are now planted on the terraces of the river in the narrow inland section of the Wairau Valley, but the vast majority of Marlborough’s vines are grown on and around the flat plains of its lower reaches. Within the Wairau system there are now many recognised sub-regions. On the northern side of the plains near the river is Rapaura, typified by very young, silty, alluvial soils that are heavily laden with round greywacke river stones. These are extremely free-draining soils that have low water-holding capacity, where vineyards rely heavily on the abundant underground aquifer for irrigation. Soils like those of Rapaura are found in adjoining sub-regions along the northern side and parts of the central valley.
To the south is a series of tributary valleys collectively known as the Southern Valleys. Running perpendicular to the Wairau, they become progressively cooler with altitude and distance from the coast. From the east, the Ben Morven, Brancott (officially known as the Fairhall Valley), Omaka and Waihopai are picturesque and widely planted valleys, separated by rolling hills that sweep away from the Wairau towards the Blairich and Black Birch ranges. All of these southern sub-regions contain soils that are much older than the main valley, clay loams with varying levels of weathered gravel that tend to also be more even in structure and hold more soil moisture. South of the Wairau and running parallel is Marlborough’s second extensive river system, the Awatere. The Awatere Valley is now a major part of Marlborough’s vineyard landscape, with a vineyard area larger than the entire Hawke’s Bay region. Slightly cooler than the Wairau because of its exposure to the southerly airstream, it is also windier and generally drier. The Awatere’s soils are varied and often consist of wind-blown loess over stony river gravels with deep sub-soils of papa—a widespread soft, blue-grey, muddy sandstone that can be clearly seen in the cliffs that line the Awatere River. This once-barren, tussock-laden landscape has been transformed by viticulture, and a green carpet of vines now covers the numerous river terraces that seemingly wind their way up the valley towards Mt TapuaeO-Uenuku. At 2885 metres above sea level, it is the majestic highpoint of the Inland Kaikoura Range, towering over the surrounding landscape. KEVIN JUDD
Marlborough Sounds Rai Valley
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i Peloru s R
Ben Morven Valley
to West Coast
op a Waih
Und erw oo d
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Seddon Lake Grassmere
U O K
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BIR K C
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is regarded as both a blessing and a curse. Marlborough sauvignon blanc introduced New Zealand wine to the world and its popularity has driven the spectacular expansion of the country’s wine industry in the past couple of decades. To many wine drinkers, from Peking to Paris, Marlborough sauvignon blanc is New Zealand wine. Marlborough’s dominant grape variety
Where’s the problem? Sauvignon blanc’s dominance has masked the fact that Marlborough, and New Zealand, make other great and unique wine styles. Check the results of any wine competition featuring New Zealand wines and you’ll see Marlborough winning more than its share of medals for pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling and a host of other wine styles suited to cool-climate viticulture. All Marlborough sauvignon blanc is not equal. Local grapegrowers and winemakers have always recognised that sub-regions within Marlborough produce quite different sauvignon blanc styles. In the early years these differences were often lost in cross-sub-regional blends, but today they’re celebrated. Want a delicately pungent sauvignon blanc? Try a wine from stony soils in the Rapaura area on the northern side of the Wairau valley. Feel like a richer, full-bodied wine? Choose a sauvignon blanc from a district known as the Southern Valleys. If grassier sauvignon blanc is your thing, you’ll probably enjoy a wine from the cooler Awatere Valley. Tired of pungent fruit flavours? Seek out an avant-garde barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc with lashings of yeast lees and buttery malolactic flavours. Pinot noir ranks a distant second place in terms of vineyard area although it outclasses sauvignon blanc in terms of prestige. The better, more concentrated wines seem to come from the heavier soils in the Southern Valleys. Some of the best wines are made from vineyards on north-facing hillside sites that harvest more of the sun’s rays than vines on the plains. Styles vary depending on site, viticultural and
winemaking influence, but in general terms Marlborough pinot noir is sleek with impressive red and dark cherry flavours. Chardonnay performs with distinction in all parts of the region, although sub-regional differences and winemaking influence create a vast array of styles. In the formative years many wines had a heavy oak influence, once described as being ‘like a beautiful woman wearing a burka.’ It’s now more fashionable to produce wines scantily clad with oak or, in some cases, completely naked. The often delicate white peach and citrus flavours may also be garnished with yeast and sizzled butter characters during the winemaking process. Riesling, an established and successful variety in Marlborough, was edged out of fourth place in 2006 by the brash new arrival, pinot gris. Marlborough pinot gris has subtle pear and lanolin flavours with a structure that often relies on a suggestion of sweetness, most evident on initial taste, balanced by fine tannins that leave a pleasantly drying finish. Riesling comes in all shapes and sizes. Few are dry, most are medium-dry while an increasing number are moderately sweet in the low-alcohol, crisp acid style of German Mosel wines of kabinett or spätlese ripeness levels. The best are truly outstanding. Botrytised riesling is another speciality of the region, with sufficiently dry ripening conditions in most vintages to produce very pure honeyed botrytis characters. Gewurztraminer, although small in production terms, consistently ranks as some of the country’s best, which probably makes it the world’s second best (after the splendid wines of Alsace). They are lush, concentrated wines with wonderful purity. BOB CAMPBELL
Lifting foliage wires in late spring
above: Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the lower Brancott Valley right: Sauvignon Blanc
above: Dawn in the Brancott Valley left: Autumnal vineyards in the central Wairau Valley near Renwick
above: The Waihopai Valley and THE GOVERNMENTâ€™S SATELLITE INTELLIGENCE STATION right: Moonrise over the Brancott Valley
above: Early snowfall in the upper Awatere Valley left: Dawn frost, Brancott Valley previous page: Heavy frost, Brancott Valley
above: Dawn light across Clifford Bay and Cape Campbell right: Vineyards on the northern terraces of the Awatere Valley
View across irrigation dam in the lower Waihopai Valley with the Black Birch Range beyond
above: Snow on the blairich Range above vineyards in the upper Brancott VALLEY right: Hillside Pinot Noir vineyards in the Upper Omaka Valley
above: Mt Tapuae-O-Uenuku and the Awatere River as it flows past Seddon left: Evening light across Sauvignon Blanc vineyards on the Brancott/Ben Morven ridge
above: Lone eucalyptus tree illuminated at dusk, Wairau Valley left: Auntsfield, site of the districtâ€™s first vineyards in the 1800s previous page: Sauvignon Blanc vineyards, Cowslip Valley (tributary of the Waihopai Valley)
HAWKE’S BAY to the west of the Ruahine Range, which straddles the North Island’s tectonic fault line. Hawke’s Bay does not experience the volcanic activity of the country to the northwest, though in 1931 its proximity to this massive join in the earth’s crust was truly felt. The Hawke’s Bay earthquake originated many kilometres underground and pushed over 150,000 hectares of land and sea bed upwards, devastating the townships of Napier and Hastings. As the land rose, sea water drained from the wetlands around Napier and more than 2,000 hectares of new land was inherited by the town. Most of the rebuilding took place in the 1930s during the colourful years of art deco design, and as a consequence the city of Napier is today known for its abundance of art deco architecture.
Hawke’s Bay lies directly
Hawke’s Bay’s winemaking was originated in the 1850s by French missionaries of the Society of Mary (Marists). They planted a small vineyard near Meeanee to make table and sacramental wine and later moved north to Taradale. Steeped in history, this religious wine endeavour thrives to this day in Taradale with the appropriate name of Mission Estate. Around the turn of the twentieth century, two other significant vineyard sites were planted, both of which became synonymous with New Zealand’s finest examples of cabernet sauvignon. Bartholomew Steinmetz planted a vineyard along Church Road, also in Taradale, and upon returning to Europe left it in the control of a very young Tom McDonald. Tom aspired to make the country’s finest Bordeaux-variety red wines and went on to produce the country’s first commercial cabernet sauvignon. Almost simultaneously Bernard Chambers planted vines on the north-facing slopes of Te Mata Peak. The Te Mata
Dawn sky above the Gimblett Gravels and Te Mata Peak
winery became the biggest in New Zealand, but production dwindled during the 1920s as prohibition set in. Reestablished as Te Mata Estate early in the development of the modern winemaking era, three of the original Chambers plots are still farmed today. Now named Coleraine, Awatea and Elston, they are synonymous with Hawke’s Bay’s focus on Bordeaux red varieties and chardonnay. Hawke’s Bay enjoys a considerably warmer climate than the South Island, but being highly maritime, maximum temperatures rarely reach extremes. In the warmer, freedraining sites a multitude of grape varieties can reliably reach desirable ripeness levels. The region’s suitability to red wines has been firmly established, and during recent years merlot-predominant Bordeaux-variety blends and syrah have come to the fore in terms of quality. The Heretaunga plains are the alluvial flood plains of the Tukituki, Ngaruroro and Tutaekuri rivers—three mighty river systems that carry a huge variety of alluvial deposits from all over the eastern North Island, creating a mosaic of soils types. The Tukituki River drains a huge section of the distant mountain country in central Hawke’s Bay and much of the region’s southeastern hill country. It flows across the Ruataniwha plains, spilling through gorges at the base of the Raukawa Range, near Waipukurau, where the region’s most southerly vineyards are planted on limestone-rich slopes above the Waipawa River. The Tukituki then heads northeastwards through hilly country typical of much of the eastern North Island, meandering around the district’s most famous landmark, Te Mata Peak, before discharging into Hawke Bay, just north of Te Awanga. Te Mata—’the sleeping giant’—is a colossal section of tilted limestone deposit. When viewed from the Heretaunga plains, the silhouette of a giant human form can be seen lying on its back. Maori legends are varied, speaking of a giant named Rongokako, who threatened
the Heretaunga tribes but had been wooed by the chief’s beautiful daughter. Despite her love for the giant, she was forced by her tribe to seek revenge, so she asked him to eat his way through the hill and, predictably, he died in the process. She is said to have then laid a cloak over him—symbolised by the mist that regularly fills the valleys around the peak—and leapt off the steep southern cliffs to her death. Both of the other two major rivers that flow into the Heretaunga plains start life high in the Kaweka Range to the northwest. The Ngaruroro passes through st eep-sided gorges, emerging between the sheltered, elevated terraces of Crownthorpe and Mangatahi, where vineyards line both banks of the river in one of Hawke’s Bay’s cooler inland subregions. The river valley narrows near Maraekakaho, before turning to flow along the northern perimeter of the plains. Here, just north of Roys Hill, the Ngaruroro system spills out across the plains, depositing sand, silt and greywacke river stones that constitute the arid soils of the Gimblett Gravels sub-region. The Tutaekuri River travels to the north of the plains, carrying deposits similar to those of the Tukituki system. It flows southeastwards in the narrow upper reaches of the Dartmoor Valley, where dramatic vineyards sit high on the upper terraces of the river. The valley widens east of Dartmoor, and vineyard developments carpet most of the river flats as they wind their way towards the Heretaunga plains, emerging between Fernhill and Taradale, the region’s viticultural origins. KEVIN JUDD
Da rtm oo r
Ngaru roro Rive r
Gimblett Fernhill Gravels Roys Hill Flaxmere
Tuta eku ri R ive r
Hastings Heretaunga Plains
Havelock North Te Mata Peak
Tuk ituk iR
Tikokino Wa ipa wa Ri v
Waipukurau Takapau Norsewood to Masterton, Palmerston North
When a group of Gimblett
Gravels winemakers staged a comparative tasting of top Bordeaux reds against their own wines for a distinguished audience of London wine critics, they were elated to be told that their wines were closer in style to Bordeaux than the wines of any other region in the world. That’s encouraging news but hardly surprising when you compare the climate and soil structures of both regions. Without the restrictions imposed by the Bordeaux appellation d’origine contrôlée system Hawke’s Bay has been able to spread its wings. Bordeaux producers could never make wine from syrah, tempranillo, chardonnay and viognier, or even pinot noir and riesling. Hawke’s Bay makes good wine from all of these and other varieties (the region is home to 33 different grape varieties occupying an area of one hectare or more), with the cooler, high-altitude district of central Hawke’s Bay providing the sites for the serious pinot noir and riesling producers. Chardonnay has been in pole position for a while. Some of the country’s best examples hail from Hawke’s Bay, where with relative ease the variety produces very good wines with citrus/grapefruit and peach flavours. With real dedication and a well-drained, low-vigour vineyard site, winemakers can produce wines of great complexity and power. Merlot occupies a considerable percentage of the Hawke’s Bay vineyard area, where much of it is blended with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec to create a more complex and satisfying wine than any of its parts. In a warm, dry season—and there has been a run of these in recent years—merlot can produce satisfying wine when flying solo but usually benefits from the judicious blending of a compatible variety or varieties.
the South Island or Wairarapa, but wine from cooler coastal locations can be very good and the limestone-rich soils of central Hawke’s Bay show great promise. Pinot gris varies from the delicate, fruity, drier styles inspired by Italian pinot grigio (but always labelled as pinot gris) to lush wines with plenty of ripe pear and honeysuckle flavours. A few are barrel fermented and oak matured. In suitable vintages the region is capable of making really impressive botrytised dessert wines from the variety. Syrah ranks seventh though many might argue it occupies first place in the quality stakes. The Gimblett Gravels district has probably produced the greatest number of attentiongrabbing wines, with their distinctive dense dark fruit and cracked black pepper flavours. However, other sites in the Bay have produced edgier examples with intriguing floral and white pepper influences. It’s a tragedy that only 200 hectares of syrah are planted in the region, but growing awareness for these remarkable wines, together with their increasingly high prices, will surely entice growers to expand. Gewurztraminer is not a particularly fashionable variety and has only a small share of the region’s vineyard acreage. However, it deserves mention because the best can be truly outstanding wines with great intensity, lifted floral and spice flavours and surprising longevity. They’re definitely worth the hunt. BOB CAMPBELL
It’s a surprise to many that pinot noir is the region’s fifthmost-planted grape variety but the lion’s share of the harvest is picked early for sparkling wine production. Hawke’s Bay pinot noir doesn’t yet challenge the best from
Skins of fermented red grapes
ABOVE: Poplar trees in vineyards near Fernhill on the northern side of the Heretaunga Plains RIGHT: Cabernet Sauvignon
above: The Gimblett Gravels at dawn from Roys Hill, looking across the Heretaunga Plains to Te Mata Peak left: Dramatic sky at sunset above hillside vineyards in Central Hawkeâ€™s Bay
ABOVE: Netted Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the northern slopes of Te Mata Peak near Havelock North RIGHT: The Tutaekuri River meanders between autumnal vineyards in the Dartmoor Valley
ABOVE: Winery in converted horse stables near Bridge Pa RIGHT: The Ngaruroro River flows past multi-coloured, autumnal vineyards on the Mangatahi terraces previous page: Frosty winter’s morning on the Heretaunga Plains with ‘the sleeping giant’ surrounded in mist
ABOVE: Gently sloping vineyards above the seaside township of Te Awanga LEFT: Evening light across hillside vineyards on limestone-rich soils in Central Hawkeâ€™s Bay
ABOVE: Syrah (also known as Shiraz) RIGHT: Sheep grazing on hillsides above the Tutaekuri River near Dartmoor
ABOVE: Moon above hillside vineyards near Waipapa, Central Hawkeâ€™s Bay LEFT: Old farm buildings in autumnal vineyards near Havelock North PREVIOUS PAGE: Chardonnay vines on terraces high above the Tutaekuri River in the upper Dartmoor Valley
GISBORNE high up a mast on Endeavour, a twelve-year-old cabin boy named Nicholas Young was the first crew member to sight New Zealand during Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the South Pacific. His view would have included the rugged mountains of the East Cape as well as the shores of Poverty Bay—named by Cook because of his misfortune in not replenishing the ship’s supplies. This section of the North Island coast is also said to have been the landing point for many of the migratory canoes from Polynesia. Clinging to the rigging,
Both of these significant arrivals along the Gisborne coast are celebrated in the name of the district’s most prominent landmark—dubbed ‘Young Nicks Head’ by Captain Cook after his sharp-sighted crew member and ‘Te Kuri a Paoa’ (Paoa’s dog) by Maori. This headland denotes the southern end of Poverty Bay, and its formation is geologically symbolic of the majority of eastern Gisborne’s sedimentary infrastructure. The upper North Island’s eastern hill country is largely formed of colossal layers of mudstone and sandstone, often referred to as ‘papa’, which is Maori for earth, but widely used to denote a form of blue-grey, muddy sandstone. In the coastal reaches of the region the lowlands are filled with rich alluvial deposits, often interspersed with layers of volcanic ash from eruptions in the central North Island. In the early 1980s Gisborne was by far New Zealand’s largest wine region, producing bountiful crops of müllerthurgau, largely for domestic consumption. Today the region ranks third after Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, and its primary viticultural attention has turned to chardonnay, which is now widely planted across the fertile Poverty Bay plains. While grapes are also grown to the north in Tolaga Bay, on the floodplains of the Waiau River, the Waipaoa
Evening light across dormant vines and Young Nicks Head
River system is by far the most important to the Gisborne wine region.
aspect, and is known in particular as a prime location for growing both gewurztraminer and chardonnay.
The Raukumara Range forms the western boundary of Gisborne. Here in the high country the Waipaoa River emerges from steep-sided gorges to commence its journey to the shores of Poverty Bay. Flowing through a catchment that consists largely of soft papa and high clay-content soils, the Waipaoa and its tributaries collect extraordinary amounts of sediment en route to its river mouth, just north of Young Nicks Head.
On its last leg to the coast, the Waipaoa flows between two of the oldest viticultural areas—Manutuke and Riverpoint. The soils of Manutuke have a similar structure to those of Patutahi, being alluvial-based clay loams, but further into the Waingake Valley, a southwestern tributary of the Waipaoa, the influence of ash and volcanic debris is clearly evident. Here on the banks of the Te Arai River is New Zealand’s first commercial, fully certified organic vineyard, Millton Vineyard, established in 1984 by James and Annie Millton. The company farms vineyards in both Riverpoint and Manutuke, but Millton’s Naboth’s Vineyard, which sits high on a spur overlooking the Waingake Valley, is one of the most visually stunning vineyard sites in Gisborne, and probably the first vineyard in the world to capture the rays of the new day.
As the river enters the plains, it flows through Ormond, where the region’s first commercial vineyard was planted by Friedrich Wohnsiedler in 1921. Known as Waihirere Wines, the company became one of New Zealand’s biggest wine producers in the late 1950s. It was purchased in the early 1970s by Montana Wines, who then went on to make Wohnsiedler a household name during the 1980s with a fruity müller-thurgau wine style. From the township of Ormond, through Waihirere and along the foothills that overlook the Central Valley region, there is a narrow strip of southwest-facing slope that has been named ‘The Golden Slope’. Known for producing some top-quality chardonnay, this slightly elevated tract of land has the benefit of increased soil-moisture drainage, making it more desirable than the flat valley floor, especially in wet years. The river snakes across the plains in a southerly direction with Gisborne’s largest sub-region, the Central Valley, lying to its east. The soils in the Central Valley are deep, fertile, silty loams that support a wide range of agricultural and horticultural pursuits. To the west of the river the smaller but more densely planted silt and clay loams of Patutahi are home to around one third of Gisborne’s vineyards. This area is preferred for its slightly elevated and generally drier
Finally, the Waipaoa passes the tiny sub-region of Riverpoint, an area with relatively free-draining soils and a close proximity to the coast that has a moderating influence on the climate. Many companies have vineyards in this small parcel of land, but the company that shares the sub-region’s alternative name and one that put the Gisborne wine region on the world wine map is Matawhero. Established by the late Bill Irwin in the 1960s, the vineyards were planted with an emphasis on sourcing the best grapevine clonal material available. The combination of Bill’s viticultural focus and his son Denis’s eclectic, ‘hands-off’ winemaking style produced many outstanding wines, in particular extraordinarily powerful gewurztraminers that were well before their time. KEVIN JUDD
MA U K RAU
aip ao aR
Poverty Bay Plains
Waingake Manutuke Valley
Poverty Bay Wherowhero Lagoon Young Nicks Head
vineyards in the late 1970s took advantage of the area’s abundant sunshine and fertile soils to meet the demands of a burgeoning wine market. Most of the vineyard owners sold their annual crop to one of the country’s larger wine producers. The biggest and most ambitious companies, including Cooks, Corbans and Montana, established large wineries not far from the city centre; today they’re all owned by Pernod Ricard New Zealand. An explosion of Gisborne
Gisborne has always had a group of small, fiercely individual winemakers, such as Millton and Matawhero, with a strong focus on making high-quality wines. Artisan winemaking is now enjoying a renaissance, providing diversity and personality to the region, and larger producers have started making top-quality, limited-edition wines from Gisborne grapes. Gisborne is the self-christened chardonnay capital of New Zealand, with the grape variety occupying more than half of the region’s vineyard area. I’ve always described Gisborne chardonnay as soft, charming wine with almost lush, ripepeach and other tree-fruit flavours. That definition now needs to be extended with the appearance of several big and complex wines with mineral, bran biscuit and nutty flavours. Unoaked chardonnay is a popular complement to the traditional barrel-fermented styles, the best of which can be very good indeed, with wonderful purity and succulent textures. Pinot gris is a rising star but has a long way to go before it catches the leader. A few winemakers are eyeing its newfound popularity with interest—some are even wondering whether it might one day become the region’s new ‘hero’. Styles vary, the most popular being produced with no oak, a strong fruit focus and a modicum of sweetness to veil the wine’s fine tannic backbone.
Gisborne has a reputation of being a white wine region, with merlot being the only red grape variety planted in any volume. Introduced to meet the rising demand for a oncefashionable varietal style, it makes a light, soft, easy-drinking red that’s perfect slightly chilled for social summer sipping. Gewurztraminer earns my vote for the grape the region should adopt as its signature variety. Gisborne not only put gewurztraminer on the map in the late 1970s with some memorable wines by Matawhero, but the region also continues to make many very smart examples. When the world’s greatest wine critic, Robert M. Parker Jr, sent his lieutenant, Neal Martin, to review New Zealand’s wines in 2007, his top pick was Vinoptima 2004 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. The best are intense, lush wines with a core of Turkish delight flavours enhanced by wonderfully spicy high notes. Pinot noir occupies a significant segment of the vineyard area, with 80 percent dedicated to making sparkling wine. Although the region’s climate is probably too warm to make great pinot noir, James Millton gets dangerously close to debunking that widely held belief with wines from his intensely maintained organic hillside vineyard. Viognier is a fairly recent immigrant that has been embraced by quite a number of growers. It can produce simple, soft and easy-drinking wine when grown to produce more commercial wine styles, but it can also make far more intense and serious wine on lower-yielding sites where quality winemaking is the goal. BOB CAMPBELL
Mechanical under-vine weeding, Manutuke
ABOVE: Waihirere and the northern Poverty Bay Plains from the Hexton Hills RIGHT: Gewurztraminer
above: VINEYARDS ON THE GOLDEN SLOPE VIEWED FROM THE HEXTON HILLS left: VINEYARDS IN MANUTUKE WITH THE RAUKUMARA RANGE IN THE DISTANCE
ABOVE: Vineyards near Waihirere and Grays Bush, viewed looking to the west across the Central Valley RIGHT: Hillside vineyards above the Waingake Valley, looking northwards across the Poverty Bay Plains previous page: The extensive vineyard plantings of Patutahi AT DUSK.
above: Chardonnay left: Gently sloping vineyards below the Hexton Hills PREVIOUS PAGE: First light of the day illuminates the white cliffs of Young Nicks Head
ABOVE: The Poverty Bay Plains viewed from Grayâ€™s Hill lookout near Waihirere RIGHT: Sunrise over the Hexton Hills and vineyards in the Golden Slope sub-region
CANTERBURY runs almost the entire length of the South Island, a convergence of two slow-moving slabs of the earth’s crust that generated the extraordinary forces required to form New Zealand’s Southern Alps. This momentous tectonic collision also produced volcanic activity, the most prominent being the creation of two colossal overlapping volcanoes, which formed an island that rose some 1500 metres out of the Pacific Ocean. Over many periods of intense glaciation the Southern Alps have been gouged and eroded, depositing gravels at the base of the mountains and forming large shingle fans that spread eastwards, creating the Canterbury Plains and eventually connecting the mainland to the volcanic island known today as Banks Peninsula.
New Zealand’s Alpine Fault
While Captain James Cook and his crew were the first Europeans to sight Banks Peninsula, named in honour of Endeavour’s botanist, Joseph Banks, it was the French who first settled within the eroded remnants of Akaroa, one of the huge, extinct volcanic craters. In the mid-nineteenth century they arrived with the intention of forming a colony and claiming the South Island on behalf of their country. Beaten to it by the English, who signed the Treaty of Waitangi a few weeks earlier, the French built their settlement on the shores of Akaroa Harbour as planned and established farms in the fertile volcanic soils. They planted fruit and vegetables that they had transported from their homeland and, with this, Canterbury’s first grapevines. The sheer size and orientation of the Southern Alps have a major influence on the weather patterns of the entire South Island; in the case of Canterbury it is the creation of a considerable rain-shadow effect. During winter rain and spring snowmelt, mighty rivers flow across extensive flood plains, but during the summer months they shrink to a
Waipara Valley from the Teviotdale Hills
trickle, meandering through wide expanses of shingle that are so characteristic of Canterbury’s braided river beds. Adding to the effects of the low rainfall are the relentless and often ferocious northwest winds, particularly during spring and early summer, when they can increase the rate of evaporation to extreme levels, scorching the already parched landscape to a golden brown crisp. It was these blustery winds that blew fine glacial dust (loess) from the juvenile river beds, depositing it across the plains, along the North Canterbury hills and the slopes of Banks Peninsula, where it is an important component of many vineyard soil profiles. The birth of the modern Canterbury wine industry was in the early 1970s within the campus of the oldest agricultural teaching institution in the Southern Hemisphere, Lincoln College (now Lincoln University). Here, Kiwi horticultural scientist David Jackson and Danny Schuster, a winemaker native to Prague, combined passions to promote the concept of growing grapes in Canterbury. The enthusiasm of this duo and their colleagues caught the attention of people from a variety of backgrounds, and a number of small vineyards were established as a consequence. The first commercial plot of pinot noir was planted on the loess clay slopes of Kaituna Valley on Banks Peninsula by Graeme Steans, a Lincoln academic. A band of enthusiastic medicos developed a small vineyard at the foot of the Port Hills in 1977, from which Ivan Donaldson made wine before establishing Pegasus Bay. The Mundy family swapped potatoes for grapes at Coutts Island, near Christchurch, creating St Helena. Bill Turner, a fruit grower at Belfast, planted a vineyard that produced the first harvest for Ernie and Jane Hunter, made by Almuth Lorenz under the Hunter’s label, and the Giesen Brothers planted vineyards at Burnham in the early 1980s. Today, small vineyard holdings exist on Banks Peninsula, in the plains around Christchurch and as far south as the
Waitaki Valley on the North Otago boundary, but by far the most important region in Canterbury is Waipara Valley. Once considered a dry, dusty backwater with little agricultural value, Waipara Valley has now well and truly established its position as a producer of fine wines—in particular pinot noir and riesling. The valley runs in a southwestward direction inland of the Teviotdale hills, which provide protection from the cooling easterly breezes. The main concentration of wine-growing is centred around the township of Waipara, between Mount Cass to the east and the Three Deans to the west. The soils of the central valley tend to be alluvial gravels with silt, sand and clay in varying proportions. To the east, more loess clay is evident, especially on the northwest-facing slopes of the Teviotdale hills. The other key viticultural attraction of this region is limestone, which is found throughout, especially in the foothills on either side of the valley, and is particularly evident to the west through Weka Pass, where white rock faces line the gorge. The prevalence of limestone has also attracted viticultural developments to the west of Weka Pass in one of Canterbury’s newest wine landscapes around Waikari and Pyramid Valley. Vineyards continue to emerge in various North Canterbury locations, as far north as the limestone bluffs of Kaikoura. One of the most significant developments of recent times has been in the hills north of Cheviot, on gentle north-facing terraces above the Waiau River, looking across the Waiau basin to the magnificent Seaward Kaikoura Range. KEVIN JUDD
K KAI RD A W SEA
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GE AN R RA OU
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ILLS LE H A D IOT TEV Mt Cass
Wa ima k
ER NT A C Burnham
to Dunedin Central Otago
Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora)
Port Hil ls
to West Coast
Banks Peninsula Kaituna Valley Akaroa A ka
from Kaikoura to south of Timaru, covering a bewildering range of vineyard sites. Soils range from river gravels and loam to almost pure limestone and many shades between. Although the climate is generally cool with a relatively low rainfall during the ripening season, it is modified by proximity to the sea, aspect, altitude and exposure to drying winds. Given that mix of factors capable of influencing wine quality and character, it’s hardly surprising that the region produces a diverse range of wine styles.
the right stuff. In fact, the most impressive New Zealand chardonnay I’ve ever tasted was grown in the limestone soils of Pyramid Valley.
Canterbury stretches 300 kilometres
Waipara Valley chardonnay, particularly when grown in limestone-rich soils, can have a steely, mineral character that is distinctly chablis-like, although a tendency toward high alcohol levels in some wines can produce richer, fleshier wines than the French model.
Pinot noir is, sensibly, Canterbury’s most planted grape variety by a considerable margin. Popular wisdom suggests that New Zealand pinot noir came of age when winemaker Danny Schuster produced a wine at St Helena in 1982 that was astonishingly good in its day. The vineyard that supplied much of the fruit for that benchmark vintage lies in a valley on the road to Akaroa. Planted in 1977 with ‘dog tucker clones’, according to present owner Grant Whelan, it is the country’s oldest pinot noir vineyard and still makes gold medal wines. Pinot noir grown on the Waipara hills is capable of being richly structured, intense and impressively complex, particularly when produced from vineyards with reasonable vine age. It tends to make more fragrant and delicately perfumed wine when grown on the plains around Waipara and Christchurch. Limestone soils in Pyramid Valley and Weka Pass, 15 minutes west of Waipara, show great promise, with sleek, mineral-influenced wines appearing in the first vintages. Cheviot is another area showing promise, with a rather Burgundian-style wine emerging from the district’s first vintage. While the acreage of pinot noir is increasing, the vineyard area of chardonnay—Canterbury’s second-most-planted variety—is fairly static, the lack of growth being the result of worldwide trend rather than the region’s ability to make
Canterbury riesling can be truly exciting. Most are made in a medium-dry style, with a small amount of residual sugar balancing assertive, steely acidity. If vintage conditions allow, the region can also make luscious riesling with a distinct botrytis influence that still allows varietal flavours to dominate. Sauvignon blanc is grown widely throughout Canterbury and can be more assertively acidic than the Marlborough benchmark, although flavour profiles can resemble the wines from Marlborough’s Awatere Valley. They tend to be more understated than the exuberantly pungent wines of Marlborough. Pinot gris is a rising star in Canterbury’s vineyards. In my opinion the region is better suited than most to making top wine from the variety, the wines showing lovely fruit purity with classic pear and lanolin flavours; a few achieve an attractive spicy character. Good natural acidity gives many a pleasantly drying acidity, which to me is preferable to the drying tannic finish often evident in regions with warmer growing conditions and lower natural acidity. Gewurztraminer, unfortunately, occupies only a small percentage of the region’s vineyard area—a pity because the best are spectacularly good. They are beautifully pure wines with impressive energy and flavours resembling rose petal and lavender. BOB CAMPBELL
Harvesting Pinot Noir on the slopes of the Teviotdale Hills, Waipara Valley
ABOVE: Riesling LEFT: Snow-covered pinot noir vineyards near Omihi in Waipara Valley
ABOVE: Lenticular clouds above vineyards on steep limestone soils near Weka pass RIGHT: Vineyards near Cheviot on the southern terraces of the Waiau River, with the Seaward Kaikoura Range beyond
ABOVE: Vines growing in limestone soils at Kaikoura with the Seaward Kaikoura Range beyond LEFT: Spring growth in vineyards growing in volcanic soils above Barryâ€™ s Bay, Akaroa Harbour
ABOVE: Netted vineyards at dusk, Waipara valley RIGHT: Layers of mist and cloud shroud netted vineyards on the terraces of the Waipara River
ABOVE: Frost pots burning in the early hours of the morning, Waipara Valley LEFT: Shafts of sunlight over the Waipara River bed and the Three Deans PREVIOUS PAGE: Vineyards on the upper terraces of the Waipara River near Mt Cass
ABOVE: Pinot Noir LEFT: Hillside vineyards perched above Akaroa overlooking the volcanic crater harbour
ABOVE: Spring in Waipara VALLEY, viewed across Waipara Valley from the south right: Pinot Noir vineyards on the lower slopes of the Teviotdale Hills
OTAGO rushes of the mid-1800s that attracted settlers to the alpine desert landscape of Central Otago—a mountainous land carved over many millennia by extensive glacial activity that steadily ground away at the schist, exposing and eroding quartz veins that contained the precious gold. Miners flocked from all over the globe to chance their luck in the barren and unforgiving terrain. It was this new civilisation that also brought the region’s first grapevines. However, the fledgling wine industry that emerged almost overnight disappeared just as quickly when the gold was exhausted, and despite Italian viticultural expert Romeo Bragato’s claim in 1895 that ‘there is no better country on the face of the earth for the production of Burgundy grapes than Central Otago,’ the region ripened stone fruit rather than grapes until almost a century later. It was the gold
When modern vineyard plantings began in the mid to late 1970s, it led to the creation, at latitude 45°S, of the most southerly wine region in the world. Nestled around vast glacial lakes among the Southern Alps, these high-elevation vineyards are surrounded by spectacular alpine scenery and thrive in a climate that is the most continental of all New Zealand’s wine regions. Central Otago basks in the rain shadow of the Southern Alps and enjoys a relatively dry and low-humidity growing season. Summers are hot by New Zealand standards, with maximum temperatures often well into the thirties, while autumns are typically cool with cold nights but sufficient heat to allow ripening of pinot noir and various other grape varieties that have been found to suit this southerly district. Snow-covered peaks surround the valleys for much of the year, with hoar frosts and snowfalls down to the lakeside creating stunning icy landscapes during the winter months.
Terraces of the Kawarau River near Bannockburn
Frost can occur at any time from the onset of autumn through to the end of spring, potentially affecting vines at either end of the growing season and inducing many winemakers to plant on north-facing slopes that capture the maximum amount of heat and allow natural cold-air drainage. While many of today’s Central Otago vistas are filled with burgeoning vineyards, it was quite a different landscape barely 30 years ago when a small number of enthusiasts pioneered the new and uncharted terroir. To the north, Rippon Vineyard was established by Rolfe and Lois Mills on the schist gravels and glacial deposits that form the southern shores of Lake Wanaka. Down in the southwest near Queenstown, Alan Brady pioneered plantings in Gibbston overlooking the Kawarau Gorge, while in the southeast Verdun Burgess blasted schist from the northfacing slopes of his Earnscleugh property near Alexandra to establish Black Ridge. Wanaka, Gibbston and Alexandra are three of Central Otago’s four distinctive sub-regions—the fourth, the Cromwell Basin, sits centrally within the triangular arrangement of the others and is now very much the heart of the Central Otago wine district, containing the major share of the region’s vineyards. Cromwell is also positioned at the intersection of the Kawarau and Clutha river systems, the two principal waterways that cleave through Central Otago’s wine landscape. The source of the Kawarau is in the heart of New Zealand’s so-called ‘adventure capital’, Queenstown. Spilling from Lake Wakatipu, the Kawarau River provides a venue for many outdoor pursuits, notably jetboating and bungy jumping. Some of the region’s earliest vineyards are located adjacent to the famous bungy-jumping bridge above the Kawarau Gorge, while a number of established wine companies are based in Gibbston, through which the gorge passes.
In contrast to the Kawarau’s short and dramatic ride from Queenstown to Cromwell, the Clutha is New Zealand’s second-longest and highest-discharge river. The Clutha drains Lake Wanaka and then flows southwards between the Pisa Range and the Dunstan Mountains through the upper Clutha Valley. Here it runs into Lake Dunstan, an elongated, man-made lake formed by the creation of the Clyde hydroelectric dam in 1992–93. On the shores and slopes above Lake Dunstan, vineyards are thriving in places like Lowburn and Mount Pisa, but probably the most prominent of these new plantings are in Bendigo, situated to the east of the lake in a dusty, rabbit-ridden side valley that clocks up more heat units than any other part of Central Otago. The lake stretches southwards past Cromwell and through Bannockburn, where prime vineyard sites are found on river terraces scarred by the sluicing activity of the gold miners all those decades ago. From Cromwell, Lake Dunstan flows southwards through the flooded Clutha Gorge to the hydroelectric dam above Clyde, then re-emerges as the Clutha River and flows through Alexandra before embarking on its long journey across Otago to the Pacific Ocean. Early in the new century vineyards have also been established in the Waitaki Valley, near Oamaru, in North Otago. Planted on north-facing slopes along the Waitaki River, this young region boasts a stunning landscape, limestone-rich soils and relatively low frost risk. The grape varieties planted here mirror those of Central Otago and, while the climate is similar in terms of heat accumulation, being much more maritime, it does not experience the midsummer heat intensity, relying instead on long, settled autumns to reach peak ripeness. KEVIN JUDD
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Central Otago is pinot noir
country. No other New Zealand wine region is more dependent on a single grape variety. Why pinot noir? The simple answer is that pinot noir performs with distinction in the schist soils and the continentally influenced climate of Central Otago. While riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and chardonnay are capable of making top wine here, when it comes to market demand and the ability to command a high price, pinot noir reigns supreme. Central Otago’s winemakers need the healthy financial return that pinot noir is capable of delivering as the costs of establishing and running a vineyard are among the country’s highest. It is difficult to offer a general description of Central Otago pinot noir without taking the district’s diversity into account. Winemaking styles and vintage conditions add further complexity. Pinot noir from the cooler Gibbston district produces racy, delicate wines with raspberry, strawberry and red cherry flavours. Often highly perfumed, they can also reveal a floral and herbal influence. The very slightly warmer Wanaka district produces wines of a similar style although they tend to be more intensely flavoured and have richer texture. The distinctly warmer climate of the Cromwell basin produces rich, fleshy pinot noir with power and concentration. These opulent, fruit-bomb styles often have ripe plum and dark cherry flavours. Wines from the hottest sites, such as the upper slopes of the Bendigo area, can even run the risk of crossing the line to become slightly overripe with a consequential loss of delicacy, particularly in hot vintages. Alexandra, a patchwork of many different soils and sub-climates, produces pinot noir that is typically elegant and racy, with more assertive acidity than those from the Cromwell basin. Central Otago pinot noir can often have a wild thyme character. Thyme was planted by gold miners in the mid-
nineteenth century and now grows wild on the hills adjacent to many of the region’s vineyards. The scent of the herb settles on the grapes, adding another subtle dimension to the wines. Pinot gris is the second most important grape variety. Winemaking, rather than the sub-region, is the main influence on style, and the wines are typically more concentrated than pinot gris from other regions. Flavours range from pear and tree fruits to wild flower, spice and yeast characters and occasionally a suggestion of oak. Most are made in an off-dry style with sweetness balanced by acidity and fine fruit tannins. A few are dry, while sweet examples are a rarity. Chardonnay is even more of an expression of winemaking style than pinot gris. Once again district character takes second place to winemaking influence. You’ll find fruity, oaky, yeasty and occasionally buttery wines. A strong mineral influence, crisp acidity and citrus fruit flavours are common denominators. Sauvignon blanc tends to be taut and relatively austere with flavours that often include mineral, citrus, nettle and green capsicum. In a warm year, like 1998, Central Otago sauvignon blanc can closely resemble the better wines of Marlborough. Gewurztraminer can be surprisingly good, with taut floral flavours and devastating purity. Viognier, pinot blanc, merlot and syrah are grown in little more than experimental quantities, but that could change if winemakers produce top results often enough to make them commercially viable. The Austrian grape variety grüner-veltliner is another hot prospect that exists, so far at least, only in the minds of a few visionary producers. BOB CAMPBELL
Pruning and collecting bud wood at dawn, Bannockburn
ABOVE: Pinot Noir LEFT: Lake Dunstan winds past the Cairnmuir Terraces and Cromwell
Netted vineyards on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka
ABOVE: Netted vineyards on Chinamanâ€™s Terrace, Bendigo, overlooking the Upper Clutha Valley RIGHT: Netted vineyards in Bannockburn on north-facing slopes eroded by gold sluicing
Vineyards sitting above the dramatic cliffs of the Kawarau Gorge, Gibbston
ABOVE: Autumnal vineyards on the Cairnmuir Terraces by the shores of Lake Dunstan, Bannockburn RIGHT: North-facing vineyards on terraces of the Kawarau River in Bannockburn
ABOVE: Old house in Gibbston, with the Remarkables Beyond LEFT: Steep hillside vineyards above Lake Hayes near Queenstown
ABOVE: Newly planted vineyards in Bendigo with the St Bathans Range in the distance RIGHT: Lenticular clouds above the Remarkables and young vineyards in Gibbston
above: Vineyards perched on the edge of the Kawarau Gorge, Gibbston left: Hillside vineyards in the schist soils of Earnscleugh, Alexandra
ABOVE: Heavy frost, Bannockburn RIGHT: Second set bunch of pinot noir grapes, Wanaka
ABOVE: Frosty morning on the terraces of the Kawarau River, Bannockburn LEFT: Hillside vineyards and a massive poplar tree in Gibbston, with The Remarkables beyond
above: Long white cloud above vineyards on the southern banks of the Waitaki Valley, North Otago right: Vineyards on the shores of Lake Wanaka with the Buchanan Mountains beyond
WAIRARAPA features two prominent figures—Maui and Kupe—who are credited with the creation and discovery of these two South Pacific islands. Maui, who went fishing with a magical hook, reeled in a large fish in the form of the North Island. From a bird’seye view, Lake Wairarapa is the eye, Palliser Bay the mouth, Cape Palliser and Turakirae Head the jaws, and the Rimutaka, Tararua and Ruahine ranges collectively form its spine. Kupe’s arrival is widely acknowledged by Maori as being the first Polynesian expedition to arrive in New Zealand. References to Kupe’s expedition appear throughout the Wairarapa region; Nga Ra o Kupe (the sails of Kupe) are rock formations near Cape Palliser and Nga Waka o Kupe (Kupe’s canoes) are the hills behind the township of Martinborough, named because of their resemblance to three upturned waka lying end on end.
New Zealand’s Maori mythology
Like many South Island wine regions, Wairarapa lies in the lee of the country’s mountainous backbone. The Rimutaka and then the Tararua ranges delineate the western boundary of the province and provide the region with a rain-shadow effect that moderates the rainfall. To the east of the ranges are the Wairarapa Plains, formed of alluvial gravels carried by the rivers that flow from the Tararua Range and thought to have been once covered in totara forest. The viticultural sub-regions of Wairarapa are all situated within the central and northern regions of the Wairarapa Plains and, more specifically, the most important areas are to the east of the plains on river terraces in and around the foothills of the region’s eastern hill country. The principal river system of the region is that of the Ruamahanga. Starting life high in the Tararua Range, it flows through dense mountain country, emerging at the northern extreme of the plains, where it flows past
The Huangaroa River FOLLOWS the base of Nga Waka o Kupe
Opaki, home to the district’s most northerly vineyards. Continuing southwards, the river runs around the township of Masterton, which is now acknowledged as a subregion in its own right. Masterton is also the origin of the district’s first wines and reputedly the location of one of the inaugural pinot noir plantings in the country. Here, on the northeast side of the town, William Beetham planted a small vineyard named Lansdowne in the early 1880s, where he made wine until prohibition brought it to an abrupt end in 1908. The Ruamahanga River then crosses to the southern side of the valley, where it flows along the foothills of the eastern hill country towards Palliser Bay. To the east of Carterton the river meanders within the foothills, where it has formed multi-levelled river terraces, which are now the focus of the second-largest concentration of planting in the Wairarapa— the Gladstone sub-region. About half-way down the eastern side of the Plains the Ruamahanga River meets the Huangarua, and here on the terraces of both rivers lies the tiny rural township of Martinborough. Established as a private town in 1881 by Irishman John Martin, it curiously has a street design based on the Union Jack. The Huangarua River originates in the Aorangi Range and flows northeastwards, following the foothills of Nga Waka o Kupe as it enters a small terraced valley in an area known as Te Muna. Here the Huangarua has deposited layer upon layer of gravelly, loess-rich soils before spilling out onto the Wairarapa Plains to join forces with the Ruamahanga in its quest to reach the Pacific. In the Te Muna valley and the associated strata that lie beneath and surrounding the Martinborough township, the Huangarua and Ruamahanga have carved through the sedimentary layers, exposing numerous river terraces of deep alluvial gravels, which in recent decades have caught the wine world’s attention by producing some of the finest pinot noirs in the New World.
Although Martinborough’s international profile is now well accepted, the establishment of this intimate wine community was pioneering stuff, and the seemingly serendipitous combination of site and grape variety was no accident. On the contrary, it was the result of a Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) study in 1979 that drew parallels between the climate and soils of Martinborough and those of Burgundy. While the parameters that were used in fulfilling the research could have covered only some of the relevant viticultural attributes of each region, the passion and determination of a number of Wellington wine enthusiasts were all that was needed to turn this scientific survey into reality. Following the DSIR study, Dr Neil McCallum of Dry River planted his first vines on the Martinborough Terraces in 1979. This was followed the next winter by Clive Paton of Ata Rangi, Stan Chifney of Chifney Wines, and co-researcher in the study, Derek Milne, with a number of partners in Martinborough Vineyard. In the beginning it was Stan Chifney who had the only winery in town, and the other pioneering producers shared his facility for the first couple of harvests. Soon after, other wineries were built and in 1986 Larry McKenna arrived to take up the winemaking command of Martinborough Vineyards. He was the first trained winemaker in the province and one of the many who went on to champion the region and its forte, pinot noir. KEVIN JUDD
a aw ing Wa
Masterton Carterton Greytown Featherston
i la P a ap r a ir Wa
aR ng a ah am u R
Martinborough Te Muna
an ga ru aR
a ar air W e Lak
Cook Strait 20
on the same latitude as Marlborough, while Hawke’s Bay is approximately 250 kilometres to the north. The region’s wine styles show a similarity to both, with a stronger link to the wines of Marlborough, particularly in the more southerly district of Martinborough—a high-performer with grape varieties that do well in the South Island and a region that can also produce classy red wines from Bordeaux varieties when vintage conditions allow. Wairarapa lies roughly
Think of Martinborough and you think of pinot noir. Martinborough put super-premium New Zealand pinot noir on the map and was the country’s pinot noir capital until Central Otago challenged its status. During the 1980s and 1990s Martinborough was the epicentre of pinot noir enthusiasm, and vineyards and wineries became test beds for experimental techniques to build a better pinot. Martinborough pinot noir is distinctive and very good by any international measure. It has a density and silken texture that set it apart from the wines of other regions, although greater vine age may contribute to this. I often find flavours resembling Black Doris plum and dark cherries, but it should be noted that vintage variation can impact on style, introducing red berry and herb flavours in cooler years. North of Martinborough pinot noir becomes more supple and often more fragrant. It’s easy to understand why sauvignon blanc is a popular choice in Wairarapa. To the south of the region the wines can, at best, resemble Marlborough sauvignon blanc on steroids. These concentrated, pungent wines have classic Marlborough passionfruit, gooseberry and capsicum flavours with just a suggestion of tree fruit to assert a regional difference. Further north the wines have a slightly stronger tree-fruit and nectarine influence.
citrus and peach flavours plus whatever level of oak, buttery malolactic and yeast autolysis influence the winemaker chooses to adopt. The best examples have real power and complexity. Wairarapa is the birthplace of modern pinot gris in New Zealand. The wines of Dry River may have sparked off the spectacular rise in this now-fashionable variety, and few other producers can emulate that winery’s lush, spicy and opulent style. Most are full-bodied wines relying on some residual sugar to balance drying acidity and tannins. Riesling is another great success for the region. It offers a range of styles from light to full-bodied and from bone dry to very sweet with a strong botrytis influence. Vintage conditions and winemaker preference are the main determinants of style. Some have an intriguing piquant, almost spearmint character that I find appealing. Relatively small quantities of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and cabernet franc are grown, despite the widely held belief that Hawke’s Bay represents the southern limit for those varieties. It is impossible to deny the outstanding quality of the best examples in favourable vintages. Syrah, in particular, can produce dense, complex wine with wonderful floral and spice flavours. The region is full of surprises—I tasted a dense, ripe sample of cabernet sauvignon from vines grown on a limestone-rich, hillside site east of Gladstone that would silence anyone who doubts the variety can fully ripen in Wairarapa. BOB CAMPBELL
Chardonnay is typically rich and quite concentrated, with
Planting vines in Te Muna
ABOVE: Autumnal vineyards in Martinborough near the confluence of the Huangaroa and Ruamahanga Rivers RIGHT: Pinot Noir
above: Vineyards on terraces of the Ruamahanga River in Gladstone left: Evening light across the upper terraces of the Huangaroa River with the Tararua Range in the distance
ABOVE: Late afternoon light illuminates the hills of Nga Waka o Kupe RIGHT: Vineyards at dawn in Te Muna
ABOVE: Misty pre-dawn light over netted vines in Gladstone right: Vineyards adjacent to the Martinborough township
above: Sauvignon Blanc right: Vibrant spring growth in vineyards on the Martinborough Terrace
ABOVE: NETTED VINES, GLADSTONE LEFT: Collecting nets after harvest, Gladstone
above: Young vineyards in the Te Muna with the Tararua Range beyond right: Lenticular cloud at dusk above Martinborough previous page: Young vineyards and Nga Waka o Kupe glowing in warm evening light
NELSON In December 1642, off the
West Coast of the South Island, Abel Tasman was the first European to set sight on New Zealand. Recorded in the ship’s journal were the words, ‘We saw a large, high-lying land, bearing south-east of us.’ Tasman then rounded Farewell Spit and anchored in Golden Bay, a spectacular approach during which he could only have been impressed by the endless stretches of white sand, lush native vegetation and magnificent mountain backdrop. Taking in the northwestern extremity of the Southern Alps and the northern reaches of the West Coast, much of the Nelson region is mountainous and has three national parks that collectively cover a significant proportion of the district. The smallest of these parks, internationally recognised for its stunning coastal tracks, is named after the man himself— Abel Tasman. Nelson is known for its sunshine and golden sands, and its deep-rooted and diverse culture of arts and crafts. Its congenial maritime climate provides an ideal environment for growing a wide assortment of produce, and the fertile valleys and plains that surround Tasman Bay have for many years supported the intensive farming of a wide range of crops. In addition to growing the more traditional fruit and vegetable crops, Nelson has historically been renowned for its ability to grow tobacco and hops, with old hop kilns still remaining very much a feature of the rural landscape. While the tobacco industry has all but disappeared, hops can be seen trained up vertical strings in hop gardens throughout Upper Moutere and Motueka, and is a multi-million-dollar crop, internationally praised for its high alpha-acid content. The Nelson wine industry is relatively small in comparison to the other New Zealand regions, and is concentrated within
Hilltop vineyards overlooking the City of Nelson
the coastal valleys and rolling hill country that surround the southwestern shores of Tasman Bay. The viticultural landscape is generally divided into just two sub-regions— the flat river beds of the Waimea Plains near Richmond and, to the north, the undulating hillsides of Upper Moutere. Both these sub-regions are located within the low-lying hills and river valleys that lie between the Arthur Range and Tasman Mountains to the west, the Bryant Range to the east, and the alpine reaches of the Richmond Range to the southeast. These mountain backdrops dominate the skyline and also serve to temper the climate, providing the region with protection from the prevailing westerly flow and southerly weather extremes. It is a district with relatively low frost risk on account of its very secluded maritime disposition. The first Nelson winery was established by Francis Henry Montagu Ellis in the late 1800s, and the company produced fruit and grape wine for seventy years on the eastern side of the Takaka Valley in Golden Bay—a district that has only very recently been viticulturally rediscovered, with a handful of new vineyards having been planted there in the last few years. The first significant plantings of the modern-day Nelson wine region were made around Upper Moutere, a village established by German immigrants who arrived aboard the ship Sankt Pauli in the mid-1800s, enticed to settle in Nelson by the New Zealand Company. The pioneer plantings were those of Hermann and Agnes Seifried in 1973 on gentle north-facing slopes to the south of the Upper Moutere township. Hermann, an Austrian winemaker trained in Germany, and his Kiwi wife Agnes planted a multitude of varieties in their clay soils, as did Tim and Judy Finn at Neudorf on the other side of the town in the late 1970s. Today vineyards are dotted in a seemingly random fashion throughout this gently rolling, verdant landscape of pine forests, grazing land and orchards.
The soils in this area are relatively low in fertility and have high moisture retention, which supports vine growth through the summer without irrigation. They usually consist of a layer of shallow silty loam over Moutere gravel— ancient clay-bound gravels from vast glacial deposits that created the Moutere Hills after the last ice age. The plethora of viticultural options was reasonably quickly whittled down after a few years of experimentation, and the gently sloping Moutere hillsides were found to consistently provide idyllic conditions for pinot noir, chardonnay and the ‘aromatic’ varieties, in particular riesling, pinot gris and gewurztraminer. Soon after the Upper Moutere beginnings, Trevor Lewis planted a small vineyard at Ranzau (now known as Greenhough) close to Hope and became the first winemaker to concentrate on making wine from the riverbed soils of the central Waimea Plains. While slow to be developed viticulturally to any great extent, this is essentially the flood plain of the Wai-iti River system, the source of which lies way to the southeast in the region’s alpine landscape. The plains themselves are young river bed, with combinations of silty loams with varying percentages of rounded river stones, very similar to those found in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. Not surprisingly, once the plains were developed it was sauvignon blanc that dominated the plantings. Today the vast majority of Nelson’s grapes are grown on the Waimea Plains, and numerous small wineries have been established in this fertile valley of mixed horticultural pursuits. KEVIN JUDD
Farewell S pit
N TA I N S
ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK
KAHURANGI NATIONAL PARK
Tasman Bay r
R ka tue
r ive Moutere Hills Neudorf
Port Nelson Upper Moutere
Waimea Plains Hope
Brightwater to West Coast, Christchurch
Nelson wines have energy
and an edginess that sets them apart from those of other regions. The French have a word, nervosité, that sums up the difference. It’s the nervous energy of a thoroughbred racehorse as it waits for the starter’s gun, and it perfectly describes many Nelson wines. Bright, pure flavours and knife-edged acidity are the product of long sunshine hours and cold nights during the ripening season.
Nelson chardonnays are pure ‘Burgundy’ in style—powerful, finely textured wines with wonderful cashew nut, bran biscuit and mineral complexity. Although wines from the Upper Moutere perhaps deserve the most respect, there are several superb examples made from grapes grown on the Waimea Plains. Nelson unoaked chardonnay is some of the best in the country—a racier regional style that allows a clear expression of pure citrus, white peach and mineral flavours.
The region doesn’t have a signature grape variety that stands out above the others. It does, however, have a winemaking hero. Since 1981 Neudorf has blazed a quality trail and kept further ahead of the pack than the winemaking heroes of any other region, although in recent years a small collection of quality-focused producers is gradually narrowing Neudorf’s lead.
Pinot gris is a Johnny-come-lately, marching rapidly through the ranks. In Nelson the variety achieves good acidity and impressive purity. Most examples are at least medium-dry with the best showing an enviable spice/star anise character that adds extra interest to pear and other tree-fruit flavours.
Faced with the question, ‘What is Nelson’s best wine style?’ I’d have to declare a tie between pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling, none of which is the region’s most-planted grape variety. Sauvignon blanc has the greatest share of Nelson’s vineyard area by a large margin, and much of it is grown on the Waimea Plains. I find it quite difficult to distinguish between Nelson and Marlborough sauvignon blanc; the flavour profiles are quite similar, although Nelson sauvignon blanc can sometimes have tangier acidity. Pinot noir can vary from light, delicately perfumed wine to rather more robust and richly textured examples. The difference is not completely explained by sub-region, although the wines of the Upper Moutere do tend to be more intense than those of the Waimea Plains Most of Nelson’s small producers hand-pick their chardonnay grapes, which are then whole-bunch pressed, a process designed to make subtle, long-lived wines. The best
Good riesling needs pure flavours and fine acidity. In Nelson it can achieve both with ease in most vintages. A number of dry wines are made, although the majority are in a medium-dry style, achieving a wonderful tension between acidity and sweetness. If weather conditions allow, botrytisaffected riesling is produced by numerous winemakers, the best having a moderately honeyed botrytis influence that balances the crisp varietal flavours. Gewurztraminer is a distant sixth in the pecking order of grape varieties, a position that reflects market demand rather than quality status. Nelson gewurztraminer is finer and edgier than many of the lush and fleshy wines from other regions. Like other white varieties it has great purity and rather understated flavours suggesting Turkish delight, pot pourri and clove/spice. Special mention should be made of the small amount of Bordeaux varieties—merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon—grown in the region. While these may seem unsuited to Nelson’s cool climate they can produce wines that will surprise in favourable vintages. BOB CAMPBELL
Checking fermentation progress
ABOVE: Sauvignon Blanc LEFT: Old hop kiln and autumnal vineyards in Upper Moutere
above: Old hop kiln and vineyards in spring, Upper Moutere left: Last rays of sunshine across the hills of Upper Moutere
ABOVE: Old Chardonnay vines, Upper Moutere LEFT: Netted vines near Ruby Bay
ABOVE: Rolling vineyard country in the Redwood Valley, Moutere Hills RIGHT: Verdant spring growth in vineyards and hop gardens, Upper Moutere PREVIOUS PAGE: ROLLING RURAL LANDSCAPE IN UPPER MOUTERE WITH THE ARTHUR RANGE BEYOND
ABOVE & LEFT: Autumnal vineyards overlooking Tasman Bay, NORTH OF NELSON
ABOVE: Pinot Noir leaf RIGHT: Dramatic dawn sky above vineyards in Upper Moutere PREVIOUS PAGE: The Arthur Range and Upper Moutere vineyards in autumn
UPPER NORTH ISLAND Lake Taupo to the tip of the Karikari Peninsula, grapes have been planted throughout the upper North Island’s narrow, northwestern arm, a landscape that has been extensively shaped by recurring volcanic activity. The craggy ranges of the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island are some of the most prolific volcanic formations of the region, along with the volcanic domes of Whangarei and Little Barrier Island. However, probably the most familiar evidence of the eruptions of the past are the many eroded volcanic cones that populate the Auckland skyline, such as Mount Eden, One Tree Hill and Rangitoto Island. From the shores of
This final chapter covers a number of districts that are grouped together because of their small individual size but collectively still rank as the smallest New Zealand winegrowing region. The northerly latitude of these viticultural sites brings sufficient warmth to ripen a considerable range of grape varieties, but the completely maritime climate can lead to challenging seasons in some years. This amalgamation of northerly winegrowing districts includes the site of New Zealand’s first vineyard, the home of the Dalmatian forerunners of the modern wine industry and the commercial centre of the country’s large winemaking businesses. Samuel Marsden, a Sydney-based Anglican, founded the first Christian mission in New Zealand and in 1819 planted the country’s first vineyard at Kerikeri, Bay of Islands. Marsden was an intermittent but frequent visitor to New Zealand, spreading the gospel to Maori. While Marsden may have effectively been New Zealand’s first viticulturist, it was James Busby who made the first wines from vineyards he planted at Waitangi, also in the Bay of Islands. Busby’s most politically important role was assisting in the drafting
Vineyards on Waiheke Island, and the Auckland city skyline
of the Treaty of Waitangi, but he is also widely regarded as the father of both the Australian and New Zealand wine industries, having previously founded vineyards in Australia’s Hunter Valley. Late in the 1830s the Catholic Marist brothers planted vines around the steep-sided cliffs of Whangaroa Harbour and at either end of the western side of the Northland peninsula, on the shores of the Hokianga and Kaipara harbours. These French missionaries left Northland and headed south during the mid-1800s, initially to Gisborne and then onto Hawke’s Bay, where they established Mission Vineyards. Much of Northland was once covered in kauri forest, one of the largest and longest-living trees in the world; the oldest living example stands at over 50 metres tall and is estimated to be between 1500 and 2000 years old. Significant tracts of kauri forest were cleared by colonial saw-millers, but during the mid-nineteenth century it was the resinous gum that lay buried under successive generations of kauri forest that formed a new and substantial export business. Towards the end of the century the forests and swamps of Northland and the Coromandel Peninsula were awash with gum-diggers, many of whom were Maori. Of most relevance to the wine industry, however, were the large numbers of European immigrants, in particular the Dalmatians. After digging for gum, the Dalmatian immigrants began a variety of rurally based endeavours, one of which was grapegrowing and winemaking. They planted their vineyards to the west of Auckland city in the lee of the Waitakere Ranges, initially around Henderson, where Lebanese immigrant Assid Corban had planted his Mt Lebanon Vineyards earlier in the century. As further expansion was required, they moved northwards to the gently undulating landscape of Kumeu, Huapai and Waimauku. With names like Nobilo, Selak, Brajkovich, Babich and Delegat, these small Dalmatian wine businesses that emerged during the
first half of the twentieth century evolved to form the basis of New Zealand’s modern-day wine industry. The modern hub of winemaking remains in and around the northwestern districts of Auckland, but grape-growing has spread throughout the Northland peninsula. Significant plantings now exist in the seaside district of Matakana, near Warkworth, with small holdings further north around Whangarei. Even though vineyards first flourished in the far north nearly two centuries ago, it was not until Monty Knight‘s Okahu Estate in Kaitaia produced its first shiraz two decades ago that the region enjoyed a reinvigoration of interest. A number of small wineries have subsequently been established in the picturesque Bay of Islands and also as far north as the Karikari Peninsula—the site of the country’s most northerly vineyard. Small vineyards are also dotted across the landscape to the south of the country’s largest city, down the rolling hillsides of the Clevedon coast and into the incredibly fertile plains of the Waikato, across the Bay of Plenty and recently onto the Coromandel Peninsula. However, the northern wine district that has attracted the most attention in the last few decades lies off the city’s coast on an island in the Hauraki Gulf. When Kim and Jeanette Goldwater first planted their vines on slopes overlooking Putiki Bay in 1978, Waiheke Island was known as a retreat for retired Aucklanders and sandal-wearing hippies. This small island community enjoys a warm and sunny climate, with both its maximum and minimum temperatures being moderated by its completely maritime environment. Now known as the source of some of the country’s finest cabernet- and merlot-based wines, it today boasts a modestly sized wine industry that has gained considerable recognition. KEVIN JUDD
Bay of Islands Kerikeri Waitangi
PACIFIC OCEAN Hokianga Harbour
Great Barrier Island
Little Barrier Island
Hauraki Gulf Waitemata Harbour Huapai
Henderson Mt Eden
Waiheke Island ed
Firth of Thames Pukekohe
Bay of Plenty Tauranga
diverse region is home to a greater range of grape varieties than any other, including survivors from before the ‘new wine age’, before winemakers first discovered that they could make decent wines using better varieties and, most importantly, that the market loved them. Those historic vines include the American hybrid seibel, the sherry grape palomino and the German bulk grape müllerthurgau—happily all in relatively small acreages. With such a patchwork quilt to examine I shall focus on each district and its principal wine styles rather than talk about, for example, chardonnay, before trying to describe the many styles of chardonnay made throughout the region.
This large and incredibly
Starting in the south, the Waikato region has some vinous historic significance as the government viticultural research centre was established at Te Kauwhata in 1897. Chardonnay is the most planted variety, with big and buttery a popular style choice, followed by cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec (in that order), mostly used to produce fullflavoured, rustic reds. Clevedon, in Manukau, was a popular spot for ‘lifestyle’ winemakers who commuted to their day jobs in the city, but the financial realities of winemaking have seen a contraction of activities in recent times. Puriri Hills is the star, making elegant, powerful and sophisticated reds from a blend of the Bordeaux grape varieties cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and carménère. Waiheke Island takes advantage of its ‘drier than the mainland’ climate and captive Auckland market to make a large number of different wine styles from an extensive pool of grape varieties. Goldwater and Stonyridge led the charge towards big, robust reds made from a blend of Bordeaux varieties. They can be spectacularly good and the best are proving to be long-lived. Chardonnay is the top white, although there are almost as many styles as chardonnay winemakers there. I’d define the Waiheke chardonnay style as big, rich and full-flavoured with ripe peach and stone-fruit characters.
West Auckland winemakers have been elbowed out of this historic district by urbanisation, often with a handsome cheque to take the sting out of relocation. The ones who didn’t retire tended to move to the Kumeu–Huapai district, where red wines dominate but chardonnay has the highest profile. Kumeu River has constantly astounded critics by adapting viticulture and winemaking to suit local conditions, making sleek, powerful chardonnay in moderately heavy soils and, at times, a humid climate with spectacular results. The early success of The Antipodean vineyard in Northland’s Matakana put stars in the eyes of many winemakers who followed in their footsteps. The Antipodean specialised in merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style reds that in good vintages were very good indeed. The area has since spread its wings a little, making lush, spicy pinot gris, full-flavoured and often quite luscious chardonnay, and creditable red from Italian varieties such as dolcetto and montepulciano. There are two small centres of vine-growing in the far north—one on the east coast around the Bay of Islands and a second near the west coast town of Kaitaia. The diseaseresistant red grape chambourcin, which makes a smooth, fruity and slightly rustic red, is a popular choice among east coast wineries. The warmer northern climate on both coasts produces lush pinot gris, full-bodied chardonnay and gutsy reds from the Bordeaux varieties cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec, as well as from syrah and the South African cross pinotage. BOB CAMPBELL
Pruning vines and burning prunings near Kumeu
above: Young vineyard and lone Kauri tree at Stony Batter on Waiheke Island RIGHT: Cabernet Sauvignon
ABOVE: Young vineyards near Russell, looking across the inner Bay of IslandsÂ to Paihia and Waitangi. LEFT: Vineyards on the Karikari Peninsula looking across Ranaunu Bay to the Houhora Heads
ABOVE: Blustery autumn afternoon on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf RIGHT: Vineyards on the shores of TAURANGA HARBOUR, BAY OF PLENTY
ABOVE: Chardonnay LEFT: Vineyards surrounding Putiki Bay, Waiheke Island
ABOVE: Sheep grazing in hillside vineyards near Waimauku RIGHT: Bud-burst in a vineyard with a divided trellis near Kumeu
ABOVE: View eastwards across Whangarei Harbour to the volcanic peaks of Mount Manaia and Mount Lion RIGHT: Steep hillside vineyards on Te Whau Point overlooking Putiki Bay, Waiheke Island
above: Vineyards on rolling hill country, Matakana left: Vines on the Hakaimango Peninsula, Waiheke Island, with Little Barrier Island in the distance
ABOVE: Steep vineyards and native bush overlooking Hooks Bay, Waiheke Island RIGHT: View from Waiheke Island across ROTOROA and Ponui Islands in the Hauraki Gulf PREVIOUS PAGE: Pre-dawn light across Oneroa Bay, Waiheke Island
THE VINEYARDS COVER Lime Rock, Butler’s Hill Vineyard FRONT MATTER 6 Pernod Ricard NZ, Renwick Estate 8 Ballochdale Estate 11 Nautilus Estate, Awatere River Vineyard 12 Pernod Ricard NZ, Korokipo Estate MARLBOROUGH 16 Oyster Bay Vineyard 21 Isabel Estate 22 Dog Point Vineyard 25, 27, 28, 30 Pernod Ricard NZ, Brancott Estate 31 Ballochdale Estate 32 Yealands Estate, Seaview Vineyard 33 Ager Sectus, Brackenfield Vineyard 34 Ara Vineyard 36 Cloudy Bay, Mustang Vineyard (foreground) 37 Clayridge Vineyard and Cloudy Bay, Barracks Vineyard 38 Yarrum Vineyard 39 Koura Bay Estate
40 Vita Brevis Vineyard
42 Auntsfield Estate
43 Lone Gum Vineyard
HAWKE’S BAY 50 Pernod Ricard NZ, Korokipo Estate 52 Lime Rock, Butler’s Hill Vineyard 53 CJ Pask, Watercourse Block and Te Awa Vineyard 54 Te Mata Estate, Coleraine Vineyard 55 Te Mata Estate, Woodthorpe Terraces Vineyard 56 Te Awa Vineyard and CJ Pask, Trust Block 58 Ngatarawa 59 Morton Estate, Riverview Vineyard 60 Lime Rock, Butler’s Hill Vineyard 61 Kim Crawford, Te Awanga Vineyard 63 Sacred Hill, Dartmoor Vineyard 64 Sacred Hill, Rifleman’s Terraces Vineyard 66 Pernod Ricard NZ, Montana Terraces Vineyard 67 Lime Rock, Butler’s Hill Vineyard GISBORNE 73 The Millton Vineyard 76 The Millton Vineyard, Opou Vineyard 77 TW Wines, Tietjen Vineyard 78 Pernod Ricard NZ, Patutahi Estate 81 The Millton Vineyard, Naboth’s Vineyard 84 TW Wines, Tietjen Vineyard CANTERBURY 93 Greystone Vineyard 94 Daniel Schuster, Omihi Hills Vineyard 96 Bell Hill Vineyard 97 Mt Beautiful Vineyard 98 French Farm Vineyard 99 Kaikoura Winery, Home Vineyard 100, 101, 102 Pegasus Bay Vineyard 104 Torlesse, The Rayner Vineyard 106 Vanstone Vineyard 108 Pernod Ricard NZ, Camshorn
Vineyard 109 Greystone Vineyard OTAGO 110, 115 Felton Road, Elms Vineyard 116 Carrick Vineyard 118 Rippon Vineyard 120 van Asch and Gibbston Valley, Chinaman’s Terrace Vineyards 121 Mt Difficulty, Templars Hill Vineyard 122, 123 Chard Farm Vineyard 124 Carrick Vineyard 125 Felton Road, Elms Vineyard 127 van Asch Wines, Havoc Farm Vineyard 128 Aurora Vineyard 129 Peregrine, Wentworth Vineyard 130 Black Ridge Vineyard 131 Chard Farm Vineyard 132 Felton Road, Elms Vineyard 134 Mt Edward, Drumlin Vineyard 135 Felton Road, Elms Vineyard 137 Rippon Vineyard WAIRARAPA 138 Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Vineyard 143 Escarpment Vineyard 144 Martinborough Vineyards, Wharekauhau Vineyard 146 Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Vineyard 147 Mebus Estate 148, 149 Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Vineyard 150 Schubert Wines, Dakins Road Vineyard 151 Tirohana Estate 153 Alana Estate 154, 155 Schubert Wines, Dakins Road Vineyard 156 Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Vineyard 158 Escarpment Vineyard 159 Palliser Estate, Pencarrow Vineyard NELSON 160 Spencer Hill, Coastal Ridge Vineyards 165 Waimea Estates 166, 168, 169 Kahurangi Estate 171, 172 Neudorf, Home Vineyard 174 Seifried, Redwood Valley Vineyard 175 Neudorf, Home Vineyard 176, 177 Spencer Hill, Coastal Ridge Vineyards 178 Neudorf, Home Vineyard 181 Kahurangi Estate AUCKLAND 182 Oakura Bay Vineyard 187 Kumeu River, Waitakere Road Vineyard 188 Man O’ War, Lone Kauri Vineyard 190 Karikari Estate 191 Omata Estate 192 Oakura Bay Vineyard
193 Emeny Road Vineyard
194 Oakura Bay Vineyard and Goldwater Estate 196 Matua Valley
197 Kumeu River, Mate’s Vineyard
198 Longview Estate
199 Te Whau Vineyard
204 Man O’ War, Mad Man’s Vineyard
205 Man O’ War, Puriri and Totara Vineyards
As a wine photographer I am very fortunate to have a wine-industry background. Not only has it helped open a lot of vineyard gates over the years, but more often than not the winemakers and viticulturists that I visit are already acquaintances, if not good friends. To all of my colleagues in the New Zealand wine industry, I thank you for the warm welcomes and open doors.
Most of the images in this book were taken using a Bronica SQAi, 6 x 6, roll film camera. Early images were shot using an old Bronicasaurus S2a, and one Otago panoramic image was shot on Linhof Technorama 617. Extension tubes were used for close-up work, a polarising filter has been used regularly for landscape images, and graduated neutral density filters have occasionally been used to balance exposure. Most of this book was shot on Fujichrome Velvia transparency film, all of which I purchased myself— unfortunately. Film processing was done by Imagelab and PCL. Transparency scanning was done in-house on Imacon 848 and Photoshop CS3 used to optimise density and colour balance.
In particular I would like to thank the following people for their assistance in compiling this book and their hospitality over the years during my photographic missions around the country: Monty Knight, Michael Hooper, Kim and Jeanette Goldwater, Bob and Marion Campbell, Michael Cooper, Philip Gregan, Warren Moran, Hans Weichselbaum, Paddy Preston, James and Annie Millton, Steve Smith, Kate Radburnd, Larry and Sue McKenna, Clive Paton and Phyll Pattie, John Saker, Garry and Sara Neill, Tim and Judy Finn, Kym and Maggie Rayner, Ivan and Chris Donaldson, Matt Donaldson and Lynnette Hudson, Steve Harrop and Fenella Barry, Alan Brady, Rudi Bauer and Suellen Boag, Blair Walter, Lois Mills, Greg Hay, Dom Thomas. Thanks to all the Cloudy Bay team, both past and present—your long-standing support of my photography is much appreciated. To Robbie Burton and the Craig Potton Publishing team—thanks for your continued enthusiasm for my work and your patience towards the end of this project. Thanks to Kirsty Sutherland for her superb book-design debut, and to Mick Rock, Cephas Picture Library, for your encouragement, technical advice, critique and friendship. Thanks to my sons Kohen and Alex for their company on photo trips in the early days—and to Dixie my dog for company once the boys found better things to do. Finally, and most importantly: Kimberley; your relentless patience, encouragement and tolerance of my obsessions continues to amaze me. Thank you all!
KEVIN JUDD PHOTOGRAPHY For limited edition prints of images from this book, or stock photography enquiries, please contact: Kevin Judd PO Box 1189 Blenheim New Zealand Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.kevinjudd.co.nz
First published in 2009 by Craig Potton Publishing Craig Potton Publishing 98 Vickerman Street, PO Box 555, Nelson, New Zealand www.craigpotton.co.nz ÂŠ Kevin Judd ISBN 978 1 877333 85 9
Printed in China by Midas Printing International Ltd This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without the permission of the publishers.
Craig Potton PublishIng - 2009 The Landscape of New Zealand Wine - Kevin Judd. Kevin collects the best of his vineyard photography from all...
Published on Mar 10, 2018
Craig Potton PublishIng - 2009 The Landscape of New Zealand Wine - Kevin Judd. Kevin collects the best of his vineyard photography from all...