Some of the other crops, we’re not sure what the balance is and it’s like that this year in the Chenin. Last year we got 13 tonnes to the acre of not high-quality grapes in the Chenin Blanc, so this year we did a massive shoot thinning and changed the pruning system to a certain extent and I think we’ve dropped the yield to about 4 tonne to the acre. So it’s going to be a financial loss this year. But that’s just experience, because if we go somewhere halfway in between we’ll get a consistent yield each year. And after about 20 years we should have a database of what that is!
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In 2010, the Gisborne region had five varieties with over 99 hectares planted – the same number as Marlborough, despite Marlborough having 19,295 hectares of grapes compared with Gisborne’s 2083. Gisborne’s five principal varieties were Chardonnay 1084 hectares, Pinot Gris 185 hectares, Merlot 117 hectares, Gewurztraminer 106 hectares and the Muscats 99 hectares. Pinot Noir occupied 76 hectares in Gisborne with 60 hectares of this being used for sparkling wine. Sauvignon Blanc with 79 hectares and Semillon 61 hectares were the next most important white varieties.
In Gisborne, Chardonnay is almost as dominant as Sauvignon Blanc is in Marlborough. With over 1084 hectares planted, Chardonnay comprises 53 per cent of Gisborne’s vineyard and dominates all other varieties. Pinot Gris, the second most popular variety, makes up 9 per cent of the Gisborne vineyard. The recent increase in the area in Pinot Gris in Gisborne is all about supply and demand and regional variability in price. At $1,810 per tonne, the average price of Pinot Gris grown in Gisborne is almost $700 per tonne more than the average price for all grapes grown in the region, which at $1,130 per tonne in 2008 was the lowest of any region in New Zealand.
The Auckland firms sourcing their grapes from Gisborne were beneficiaries of the knowledge their grape growers accumulated about the sugar, acid levels, tannins and flavour profiles of different varieties of grapes, but the winemakers in the companies had an even more comprehensive understanding of such qualities and their influence on the final wines. In each region this knowledge soon became more complicated as the varieties and clones began to proliferate and companies accumulated understanding of the micro-environments of the different regions and localities where they were planting.