In targeting Gisborne as a source of grapes, Montana and Corbans were joined by a group of smaller Auckland enterprises such as Babich, Delegat’s, Matua Valley, Nobilo, Penfolds and Selaks. Only Corbans immediately purchased bare land and planted grapes on it. All of the others (including Corbans) arranged formal and informal contracts with Gisborne landowners to grow grapes for them. The Auckland enterprises provided the technical advice and often cuttings. Most of these vines were not grafted but on their own roots.
Farmers on the Gisborne Plain, who were already skilled in growing a variety of crops, were quick to respond. So were accountants, iwi organisations, lawyers and environmental consultants, who also saw tax advantages in growing grapes. Many growers initially treated grapes like any other crop. As the supply of grapes was short,
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Antonio (Tony) Zame began making wine at his Capri Vineyards on Hapara Road, Gisborne, in the 1930s. By the 1950s, Zame was growing 30 tons of grapes a year and buying in another 30 to produce a variety of wines, sherries, and liqueurs. Marti Friedlander, Auckland War Memorial Museum and they were being paid by weight, they aimed for high yields. On most of the soils of the Poverty Bay flats they obtained those yields without irrigation. Ten tonnes to the acre, the equivalent to about 24 tonnes to the hectare, was common.
During the period from 1965 through to the early 1980s the area planted in grapes in Gisborne grew more quickly than in any other region – slightly faster even than Hawke’s Bay where winegrowing had been established for much longer. By the time of the vine-pull scheme of 1986, Gisborne had a similar area in vines to Hawke’s Bay, about 2000 hectares, despite it having started from a much smaller base. Gisborne growers extracted a total of 586 hectares in the 1986 vine pull, of which Muller Thurgau made
Friedrich Wohnsiedler was forced out of his Gisborne butchery in 1914 by a crowd of anti-German locals.
He headed into the Poverty Bay countryside and, under the Waiherere Wines label, pioneered commercial winemaking in the region. Dick Scott Collection, Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira, PH-2008-4 (above); Marti Friedlander (above right) up 216 hectares. Between 1990 and 1995, the total area in vines in Gisborne remained relatively stable before dropping to under 1200 hectares in 1996-97. This decrease resulted from the removal of much of the remaining area planted in high-yielding varieties, especially Muller Thurgau. Since 1996-97 the area in vines has steadily increased as more Chardonnay has been planted. Increased demand for Pinot Gris in the twenty-first century has seen it quickly become Gisborne’s second most-planted variety, but with only 185 hectares in the ground, it is well behind the 1084 hectares of Chardonnay.
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