Ultimate Guide to the Gisborne Wine Region

The Gisborne wine region is also known as the “Chardonnay capital of New Zealand.” See our collection of win­e pictures.
iStockphoto/Xavier MARCHANT

­For those in the Northern Hemisphere, New Zealand is about as far away as far away gets. The eastern part of the country is literally the first place where the sun shines at daybreak­, thanks to its proximity to the International Date Line.

This South Pacific Ocean country consists of two large islands, North Island and South Island, plus some small outlying islands. For scenery, it's hard to beat. New Zealand has mountains, geysers, glaciers, hot springs, grassland, lakes, active volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls and even a rain forest.

Being home to the southernmost winemaking region on Earth, one ponders whether New Zealand really is an ideal place for growing grapes. However, when the country first started exporting wine in the 1970s, New Zealand's Gewurztraminer was the first wine to gain connoisseurs' recognition. Since then, New Zealand has become synonymous with the world's best Sauvignon Blanc [source: Stevenson].

­The 10 wine regions in New Zealand produced 147 million liters of wine in 2007, of which more than half was exported. Sauvignon Blanc accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's total e­xported wine. But New Zealand wineries have more to offer than just Sauvignon Blanc. Its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also lauded. In fact, the third largest winemaking region, Gisborne, has dubbed itself the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand [source: On the Vine].

Located on the northeast coast of New Zealand's North Island, with a population of about 44,000, the Gisborne wine region stretches north and west from Gisborne City, encompassing three river valleys. Gisborne is also known as Poverty Bay. The name does a serious injustice to the area since its location is in one of New Zealand's most fertile and temperate horticultural plains [source: Statistics New Zealand].

Gisborne lies on the Pacific Coast in the Eastland area, which enjoys a unique history and culture unlike anywhere else in New Zealand. Read on to learn about it.