In 1988 a 15.5 hectare site on the banks of the Waimata river was set aside by the Public Trust as a condition of a will that a portion of the land be used for furthering rural education studies. Established in 1990, Waimata Vineyard covers an area of 1.6 hectares within this land and the winery has sufficient capacity to process a maximum 70 tonnes of fruit each year.
Initially planted as a collection of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, and Sangiovese these varieties have been added to and changed as the suitability of the site has become evident and Waimata vineyard is now made up of Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to the Waimata vineyard, there is also a young vineyard at EIT Tairawhiti’s Rural Studies campus, home to just over half a hectare of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris.
There has been a change of focus to sustainable viticultural practices over the years, with Waimata Vineyard achieving the Sustainable Vineard Accreditation. Development of supporting flora around the vineyard for beneficial insect populations, careful spray application focusing on a protectant regime, and altering trellis systems for appropriate varietal management will continue this year.
EIT Tairawhiti’s newest viticulture and winemaking tutor joins the team with a rather impressive track record in the wider wine industry.
Brent Laidlaw worked for industry giant Montana for more than 16 years. He may have started in a temporary vintage position, but his talent was quickly recognised and as Senior Winemaker, Brent was been responsible for some of Montana’s most applauded wines.
The Waimata Vineyards range uses both contracted fruit from local growers and fruit from the Waimata Vineyard. The range offers the ability to innovate and respond to vintage conditions with the current release being a fruit driven lightly oaked Chardonnay. The fresh contemporary design reflects the current philosophy and has so far been a hit with all that have experienced it.
Along side the Waimata Vineyards label, the Cognoscenti range has been developed with the desire to put up complex, ageworthy, reserve quality wines made from premium Gisborne fruit. Chardonnay and Syrah are offered in this range, both of which are handcrafted in small volumes.
Both these wine brands are sold commercially into the domestic market.
There has been growing recognition within the local community of the Waimata logo and label, however there is sometimes still confusion that the commercial wine is made entirely by students. Although the students are involved with the activities of managing both the winery and vineyard, the final management decisions are made by the programme coordinator, with the focus of providing the local community with a premium product. We have confidence that the award winning wines produced from the winery will continue for many years as we focus more and more on the quality New Zealand market.