Stretches of awesome beaches, diverse scenery, top surf breaks, and of course excellent wineries, you'd expect Gisborne to be a sprawling theme park of wine tourism. But because of its easterly isolation, explains Marie Buscke, Gisborne is actually a hidden wine-touring secret.
From the outside, Gisborne's claim to fame is that it's the world's most easterly city, making it the first city in the world to see the sun each day. And so of course, at the dawning of the new millennium (either 2000 or 2001, depending on which belief you prescribe to) the world's eyes focused on Gisborne.
It's also the first landing point of Captain James Cook on his travels to New Zealand. That, however, went pear-shaped after a shonky landing and tete-a-tete with the locals, forcing Cook to pack up ship and head north-west to what is now the Bay of Plenty, dubbing the bay in which Gisborne lies as Poverty Bay.
Now New Zealand's third-largest wine growing region after Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, Gisborne's wine-growing past has been a wide and varied one. The first commercial vines were planted way back in 1921 by Fredrick Whonseidler, whose name is still present on a cheap and cheerful chateau cardboard produced by the largest Gisborne producer Montana. Now with the recent merger of Montana and Corban's, the two large Gisborne wineries have become New Zealand's largest facility ... Loads of gleaming stainless steel, massive cooperages and some of New Zealand's best benchmark chardonnays, such as Montana Estate's O* and Corban's Private Bin Gisborne Chardonnay.
A tank factory like this is great for boosting the region's reputation, especially that of the local grape growers, but it's the boutique wineries that are needed to crank up the romance factor.
Cruising around Gisborne, you're not gonna pass barrages of European cars making the Sunday pilgrimage to the region's cellar doors. You'll find a mix of proud locals hauling in friends and family to their favourite haunts, turning on the down-to-earth honesty that gives Gisborne boutique wineries their edge.