Its price may make the eyes water slightly but its identity could well do likewise, for those who knew the late Bill Irwin or know his son Denis, founders of Matawhero Wines in Gisborne – the Chardonnay capital of New Zealand. Chardonnay is the most planted grape in this region, making it unique among large wine regions in a country where Sauvignon Blanc rules the vineyard roost in most regions. Kirsten Searle, the owner of Matawhero Wines today, carries the torch for the Irwins, who did so much to ignite Gisborne’s Chardonnay flame.

 

 2016 Irwin Gisborne Chardonnay, $59.95, 13.4% ABV

Its dry creamy flavours, full body and relative low acidity are the hallmarks of this big bodied, warm climate Chardonnay, which is the new flagship wine of Matawhero – one of the oldest wine brands from Gisborne.

The wine is made from a 1.7 hectare vineyard of Chardonnay grapes grown on Kaiti heavy silt loam soil at 10 metres elevation in Gisborne; the fourth largest wine region in New Zealand. The grapes are all the Mendoza clone – large and small berries are the key characteristic of this clone, and this can favour high concentration of flavour, balanced by variation in acidity and juice in the berries.

The wine was fermented in a mix of American and Hungarian oak.

This wine drinks well now and will hold for another four to five years.