Why Gisborne is the ultimate wine-lovers destination

By Cameron Douglas

Why Gisborne is the ultimate wine-lovers destination
Whether you want to dive into history, hit the beach, drink wine, dine in style or gaze at the stars, you'll always treasure your trip to 'Gizzy'.

Probably one of the best places in New Zealand to see the sunrise is in Tairawhiti Gisborne, located on the east coast of Aotearoa’s North Island. It’s a three-hour drive north of Hawke’s Bay and around a six-hour drive from Auckland or Wellington. Unless you really like driving, the best way to get there is by plane and then hire a car.

Also known colloquially as ‘Gizzy’, Gisborne is a coastal town looking out into Turanganui-a-Kiwi Bay, also labelled on many maps as Poverty Bay.

There is important historical significance for New Zealand here – the foreshore of the Turanganui River is one of the world’s greatest voyaging sites. It is the landing place of the Houruta canoe, celebrating the achievements of the Polynesian star navigators, and is the place where Captain James Cook and crew first came ashore in New Zealand.

Tupaea, the Ra’iatean high priest navigator who sailed with Cook, first met Maori here, marking the links between local people and their ancestral homelands. The local Tairawhiti Museum, Wyllie Cottage along with cultural and historical guided tours provide plenty to learn if you need a more in-depth story of the region.

There are a number of secluded beaches to discover, plenty of good surfing and picnic spots and, for the more adventurous souls, there are mountain walks, cycle tracks and rail biking. There is a highly recommend get-your-feet-wet singray encounter and you can also get close to dolphins with the odd whale ocean kayaking opportunity.

Gisborne is one of the best places in New Zealand to see the stars, with very low light pollution just outside town with an Astro tour available as well. Best coffee in Gizzy is at Far East Coffee Co, although other cool options are around.

If you’re looking for a pre-dinner cocktail, be sure to stop into Siduri Wine Bar and Deli – Sam Millton makes one of the best negronis around and his wine selection by the glass will let you explore local, some international, natural and conventional wine options. Late afternoon or early evening dining is my recommendation when in Gisborne. The Works on the Esplanade, Cranford Road Kitchen and the Dome Bar & Cinema are a lot of fun, all an easy walk within town and with excellent food.

Vineyards, cellar doors and wine experiences at the market are all good reason to head to the region. All of the classic varieties and sparkling wine are there to try, but it’s a good idea to check ahead of time with each producer just in case an appointment is necessary. Bushmere Estate, Hihi Wines, TW Wines, Spade Oak, Kirkpatrick Estate, Matawhero Wines, Bridge Estate, Bond Block Wines, Wrights Vineyard, Millton Vineyards, Stonebridge and Longbush should all be on your tasting list.

Don’t leave without staying at the Manatuke Eco Retreat. It uses solar power, is off the grid and has no wi-fi. If you can cope with this for the minimum two-night stay, then this waterside, forested location is perfect. Accommodation is in either a safari-style or bell tent options.

Top tastings from Gisborne for you to try

No visit would be complete without sampling the exquisite product of this major wine region. With lots of sun and fertile soil, Gisborne is noted for producing exceptional chardonnay. Yet save room on your table for its Gewurztraminers, albarinos, sauvignon gris and more.

Matawhero Riverpoint Homeblock Gewürztraminer 2020

Lovely perfume with aromas of sweet lavender and jasmine, white-fleshed fruits, then exotic Asian fruits. A delicious mouthfeel. Long finish with purity and finesse.

Millton Crazy by Nature Sirius White 2019

This is floral and very pretty, with a layered bouquet: aromas of wild flowers with soft sweet dried herb note then orchard fruits. Plush, vibrant and textured with flavours of sweet citrus. Lengthy, persistent finish with layers of fruit spice.

Wrights Reserve Organic Chardonnay 2018

This has intriguing aromas of ripe yellow stone fruits and apple, lemon, pith and minerality. The palate distributes flavours seamlessly. There’s a vibrant raw energy and swing between fruits and soils, oak and textures.

Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Bell-Ringer Albariño 2019

What a great bouquet, with aromas of white peach and sea. air, sweet citrus and red apple. A crisp, refreshing and dry wine. Moves nicely from a silky textured white peach to citrus. Perfect as a aperitif or with seafood.

Honorary Wines Sauvignon Gris 2019

Aromas of barrel fermentation with a smoky, toasty and light lees battonage aroma. Flavours of grapes and gooseberry. Crisp acidity keeps the palate refreshed, leading to a moderate finish. Very food-friendly style or on its own slightly chilled.



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