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Gisborne winemakers having an affair

15 April 2019

Gisborne chardonnay-makers are launching a new annual event to celebrate the region’s finest drops.

The inaugural Gisborne Chardonnay Affair, supported by Tairawhiti Gisborne, is a two-day event which begins on International Chardonnay Day on Thursday 23rd May 2019.

The event has been organised by the recently-formed Gisborne Classic Chardonnay — a group of local growers and producers who’ve come together to promote classic oak barrel-fermented and aged chardonnay.

“Conditions of membership are simple: the winemaker must produce chardonnay, the wine must be traditionally oak barrel-fermented and aged, and the result must melt even the coldest heart,” member Kirsten Searle says.

The Gisborne Classic Chardonnay Group believes Gisborne has a unique chardonnay proposition as one of New Zealand’s oldest wine regions. It saw the planting of the first Mendoza Chardonnay clones.

Typical Gisborne chardonnay characteristics are tropical fruit and rock melon flavours which are balanced by delicious citrus acidity often identified with grapefruit.

“Gisborne is fast becoming one of New Zealand’s most sought-after wine regions, and our chardonnay is second-to-none,” Searle says.

“The uniqueness of Gisborne chardonnay is often compared to that of sauvignon blanc and Marlborough. Both regions provide a unique flavour set.”

The Chardonnay Affair will run three events over Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th of May focusing on matching the wines with local cuisine, and teaching more about the wines, their makers, and the region.

“This event is an opportunity to bring chardonnay aficionados from New Zealand and around the globe to the beautiful East Coast so we can celebrate together what Gisborne has to offer to the wine world,” Searle says.

On Thursday, guests will be able to board classic steam train WA 165 — A.K.A. “The Chardonnay Express” — for three hours of chardonnay sipping and food degustation.

“They’ll be treated to the stunning backdrop of Gisborne’s inner harbour and neighbouring countryside, and the soul-soothing guitar and singing of the supremely talented Ariana Henare,” event organiser Rebecca Tacon says.

Later in the day, a classic supersized marquee will play host to a glitzy evening of chardonnay appreciation, with food created by chef Wendy Bennett worthy of the region’s best wine on offer.

Finally, on Friday, it will be white wine with white themed dress for The Long White lunch at The Black House, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Guests will be dished up mouth-watering kai moana and local produce prepared by Stephane Dussau, from local restaurant The Marina. His fare will be washed down with — you guessed it — chardonnay.

“This is the first event we’ve ever created for Gisborne Classic Chardonnay, and we’re so proud of what we’ve put together,” Searle says.

The Gisborne Chardonnay Affair will be a yearly event always held to coincide with International Chardonnay Day at the end of May.

More information is available at and tickets are on sale via Event Finder.


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