This month we head on over to Gisborne to visit Matawhero Winery and Vineyards – The Matawhero journey started with two New Zealand wine pioneers from the 1960s. Today the story continues around the drive and determination of Kirsten and Richard Searle, who purchased the Matawhero vineyard and winery in Gisborne from Denis Irwin in 2008.
They are now the trusted Kaitiaki (guardians) of Matawhero and continue to develop the iconic winery and share the distinctive wine styles of the Tairawhiti – Gisborne region. They produce famous New Zealand Chardonnay and other wines including aromatics like Gewürztraminer and lovely Reds.
Matawhero has a colourful history that underpins their journey so far. The first vintage in 1975 under the watch of Bill and Denis Irwin put New Zealand on the world wine map with a reputation for rebellious and flamboyant flavours and varietals. Son Denis imparted his own colourful style and won fame for his Gewurztraminer and famous New Zealand Chardonnays – everyone was drinking it, even the Queen!
Situated on the far east coast of the North Island, Gisborne boasts long hot summers and rich fertile plains. The M?ori name for their home is Tair?whiti, the coast upon which the sun shines. These high sunshine hours and a warm climate ripens the fruit perfectly and creates distinctive wines with lovely fruit intensity and weight.
The area sorrunding their vineyard is is a bountiful, fertile place, the lands were known by the first navigators to Tairawhiti, Toi and Whatonga, for its temperate climate and rich soils. The fertile soils made red by the fruit of the Titoki and Karaka trees. Place names were given to areas of land for many reasons. Matawhero was the most sought after land by early settlers due its proximity to the river and deep soils which could grow an abundance of produce like kumara, hue and a wealth of other crops.
The Matawhero vineyards are 100% naturally dry farmed and they only grow their grapes using natural rainfall and no irrigation. What they love about dry farming is that they are saving a precious resource like water and it also explains the style of wine they get in the glass with superior fruit flavours and a lovely weight and texture!
They only grow grapes from small, hand selected single-vineyard sites, that represent the different distinctive sub regions of Gisborne. This allows them to express the true terroir of that site and grow the varietals that suit the particular site and soil type.
Matawhero produce a range of wines across three labels the current releases are:
Single Vineyard: Hand selected from the very best vineyard sites in Gisborne from three distinct sub regions; Riverpoint, Hexton Hills and Patutahi. These single vineyard wines truly reflect the provenance.
Wines include – Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Merlot and a Pinot Noir Rose
Church House: The Matawhero Church has graced their wine label since 1975. The Church House collection are unique parcels of wine, inspired by the pioneering spirit of the founders. They explore their owners’ adventurous side and showcase alternative varieties that they can grow and produce in the region.
Wines include – Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and a Merlot/Malbec
Irwin Chardonnay: In an exceptional vintage, where superior ripeness is achieved, they hand craft this limited release barrel fermented style of Gisborne Chardonnay. This flagship Chardonnay is a tribute to the late Bill Irwin and his son Denis, the founders of Matawhero Wines. The current release is the 2017 Vintage.
Winery Cellar Door in Gisborne
At Matawhero you can also come and experience a premium wine tasting at their winery Cellar Door. It’s only a 10 minute drive south of Gisborne on SH2. The Cellar Door faithfully portrays the history of the winery. You can enjoy gourmet platters and wine tasting nestled amongst the vines and olive trees or enjoy a game of petonque.
A highlight when visiting the Cellar Door is to explore the underground cellar which is home to many older vintage Matawhero wines, as well as other iconic New Zealand wine producers.
A new addition to the Cellar Door this summer is our luxury Gisborne accommodation cabins. These allow you to stay amongst the vines and enjoy this unique new Gisborne accommodation offering.
To find out more about Matawhero, buy wines or book a stay, visit:
Follow on IG – https://www.instagram.com/matawherowines/ & FB – https://www.facebook.com/MatawheroWines/
JB reviews a few recent Matawhero wines.
Matawhero ‘Irwin’ Chardonnay 2017, Gisborne NZ
Matawhero’s Flagship Chardonnay is a tribute to the late Bill & Dennis Irwin, the founders of Matawhero – Previously tasted in 2020 so nice to try again. Bright yellow / gold in colour, medium bodied. The nose has an initial smoky note then ripe peach, apricot & melon aromas, subtle oak notes. Well integrated palate with juicy stone-fruit flavours, all underpinned with fine toasty oak influence, a refreshing citrus acidity and a long concentrated finish – not a huge buttery Chardonnay, more a classic expression of quality Gisborne Chardonnay – Highly recommended – available as a special Cellar release now. Matawhero grow 8 Varietals have had 47 Vintages & won 87 Trophies, Gold Medals and 5 Stars – Outstanding success. Very special wines.
Matawhero ‘Church House’ Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2021, Gisborne NZ
Bright medium yellow / gold in colour, nice oily viscosity (legs.) Ripe stone-fruit aromas, peach, nectarine in the nose with subtle yeasty / warm bread & butter nose. Weighty rounded palate with juicy stone-fruit & creamy, butterscotch flavours. A subtle grape-fruity acidity & fine oak textural elements result in a delicious complex wine with a long moreish finish. Excellent.
Matawhero ‘Single Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2022, Gisborne NZ
Bright straw – lemon coloured with golden hues. Fresh nose with stone-fruit, grapefruit, rock melon & butterscotch notes. Juicy lush stone-fruit flavours continue on the palate with a crisp, citrus acidity & lovely ‘not too oaky’ creamy textures & subtle spice & nutty influence. Nice long dry finish. 100% Mendoza from the Tietjen’s vineyard in the Hexton Hills or ‘Golden Slope’ region in Gisborne. A fantastic value Chardonnay too.
Matawhero ‘Church House’ Pinot Noir 2021, Gisborne, NZ
Light translucent cherry-red in colour with a nose of raspberry, cherry & plum aromas. The palate is lighter bodied, fresh & tasty with red berry & cherry fruit, dark plum & just a smidgen of oak, great acid backbone, fine tannins & a very berry finish. Drinking well but still very young – would love to see again in 2-5 years after careful cellaring. Nice with my Beef Sirloin dinner.
Matawhero Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Gisborne NZ
Medium bodied wine, bright and clear, very pale straw coloured with faint green / gold hues. The nose is fresh & fragrant with tropical fruits predominant, a little citrus & herbal notes. The palate has an intense zingy acidity, with lemon, green apple and tropical fruit flavours, juicy, savoury, with nice grip & length. Matawhero grapes are all dry farmed (no irrigation) which seems to concentrate the flavours and aromas!