Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Sense of place... five wines with it

Four decades is the blink of an eye in the world of European wine but it's nearly all we have in this country where the first Vitis vinifera vines (the species of grapes used to make wine) that grew into our substantial wine industry today were planted in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's true that some Vitis vinifera vines were planted at the turn of the 19th Century in New Zealand but due to two world wars, the Great Depression and a culture of beer drinking and unlicensed restaurants, there were precious little call for table wine as a beverage of choice. This meant that this country's wine industry was devoted almost entirely to making fortified wines with names paying homage to port and sherry but that all changed in the past 40 to 50 years, which is when the Giesen brothers, Theo, Alex and Marcel, arrived in New Zealand and established their first vineyard in Burnham in 1981. It was situated close to Lincoln University, which was and remains a centre of viticultural and winemaking training as well as research but Burnham is chilly for grape growing, so the Giesen brothers eventually relocated to Marlborough where their focus on Sauvignon Blanc has led them to global and national success, allowing them to foster smaller volume winemaking on varieties that have greater longevity for ageing and appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers. 
Like all large producers of food and beverages, the Giesen family has to make large volumes of wines that appeal to a wide range of people at relatively modest prices, but that scale also allows them to create greatness in smaller volumes. That is what the following wines are all about. 

These are the best of the extremely extensive bunch made by the Giesens.

Top drops from Giesen

2019 Giesen Clayvin Pinot Noir RRP $55.99
This new release from the great Clayvin Vineyard is another exceptional Pinot Noir from one of the great vineyard sites in New Zealand. Elevated sunny slopes, close planted vines growing close to the ground at high density and certified organic viticulture (with a focus on biodynamics) all bring a finely tuned attention to detail that shines through in each full bodied, dry and plush sip of this great Pinot. Savoury depths reveal themselves as the wine opens up in the glass and it tastes even better the day after opened, showing a great range of dark summer berry flavours. This is a keeper for at least six to seven years. Watch this space. 

2019 Giesen Ridge Pinot Noir RRP $55.99
The Ridge Block is a vineyard in Marlborough owned by the Giesen's and home to the grapes that go into this silky, elegant expression of Pinot Noir with its gentle hints of spice and edgy but balanced acidity adding complex textural deliciousness. The 2019 Ridge Pinot drinks beautifully now but will reward those with patience to let it unfold over the next three to four years; if willpower allows. 

2017 Giesen Clayvin Chardonnay RRP $55.99
Super deliciously full bodied, creamy smooth in texture and full of layers of ripe citrus flavours of grapefruit and ruby grapefruit sit over a density of white peach notes. This is an outstanding Chardonnay and will become even more delicious in four to five years. Another keeper from the great Clayvin Vineyard. 

2019 Giesen Clayvin Syrah RRP $55.99
Syrah is pretty thin on the ground in Marlborough, a region traditionally considered too cool to fully ripen this great French red grape variety, but there are exceptions and here is the best example I know of. Fermented and aged in 1000 litre German fuder barrels whose elliptical shape literally provides depth for flavour development. Spicy and cool climate in aroma, this Syrah also has a full body and ripe dark berry flavours. It is interesting and tasty now but has the structure to develop into a gorgeous Syrah with half a decade+ in a cool dark cellar. 

2021 Giesen Gemstone Riesling RRP $17.99 Special $16.99

Humble in price and in name, not to mention being made from a grape that is so often maligned, Gemstone Riesling more than lives up to being a gem. Deliciously concentrated and intense lime, yuzu and lemon zest aromas lead into a full bodied, medium sweet Riesling with masses of concentration and balancing acidity. It was fermented in a combination of concrete, oak and stainless steel. There is more than a lot to love about this great white.