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MATAWHERO

Long before Marlborough and Central Otago had been established as winegrowing regions, Gisborne had, thanks to the efforts of the Irwin family at Matawhero, already gained an international winemaking reputation. In the 1960s, the late Bill Irwin established Matawhero vineyards to supply contract grapes to local wineries. The visionary Irwin was instrumental in introducing new varieties to New Zealand that changed the country’s viticultural landscape forever.

In the 1970s, Bill’s son, Denis, launched the Matawhero brand using some of his father’s grapes, and rapidly gained national and international attention for his Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer wines. Even Buckingham Palace was in on the consumption of the Matawhero product. Denis released his last labelled vintage in 1999. In 2008, Richard and Kirsten Searle purchased Matawhero, revitalising the operation by replanting with new clones and varieties, and sourcing additional grapes from selected growers.

Kirsten Searle puts it thus: ‘Like the Irwins, who passed on a heritage of innovation, we strive to produce individual wines that are shining examples of their Gisborne terroir.’

Since the Searles’ involvement, Matawhero has earned a hoard of top awards and re-established itself as one of this country’s most exciting wineries.
LOCATION
Gisborne, New Zealand
VARIETIES PLANTED
Albarino, Pinot Gris, Pinot Rose, Merlot, Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer, Gruner Veltliner, Malbec, Arneis, Chenin Blanc
CELLAR DOOR HOURS
Daily: 12:00 PM- 4:00 PM (Summer)
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
Gold Medal Winner
Trophy Winner

Richard Searle

In many ways the story of the Searle family mirrors that of the origins of Matawhero... Father Philip, an electrician by trade and a bakery owner to earn a crust, uproots his family to become a man of the land. The Brunton Road block is bought, cropped and then planted in grapes. Young(ish) son Richard, having had enough of the good life in London, decides to return to NZ to marry an Aussie, Kirsten, who just happens to work for Villa Maria. They return to Gisborne with dreams of transforming a fabulous vineyard into a world class wine producer and thus Brunton Road was born. After 5 years cutting their teeth in the wine trade, establishing a label from scratch, an opportunity arises that is simply too irresistible to refuse. Matawhero is for sale! For all its heritage status within the NZ wine industry, Matawhero represents an enormous challenge. The roof in the home leaks into buckets strategically placed throughout the bedrooms, and the vineyard and surrounding property looks like something from the Lost World - and we haven't even mentioned the winery. Enter negotiations with Matawhero icon, Denis Irwin. Torn between parting with his baby of 30 years, and the excitement of seeing it passed to something other than a corporate brand portfolio, Denis opts for the later and wills us on. So Richard and Kirsten, with young family of three children under 5 years old, move to Matawhero with a priority list reading; 1) Fix the house, then 2) re-establish the vineyard, then 3) Produce and relaunch the wine. As we say, the rest is history...

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