Down the hatch Gibbston-style

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Gibbston Harvest Festival 

This weekend is the Gibbston Harvest Festival, now in its sixth year and this time held at Peregrine, where it began. It’s a great day to catch up with friends, but also a good chance to try some great local wines and get to meet the people behind them. 

To be involved, the wineries must have vineyards, or fruit sourced from vineyards in the Gibbston sub-region. 

This means that some of the wines will be Gibbston fruit blended with other sub-regions, some may not be from Gibbston at all, and some will be 100% Gibbston. 

So what does Gibbston wine taste like? 

Wine grown purely in Gibbston is getting rarer which makes it all the more fun searching it out. Gibbston’s cool climate, high elevation and exposed valley make growing grapes a risky business but a rewarding one when the vintage is good. 

Driving Highway 6 through Gibbston towards Cromwell, you’ll notice that most of the vineyards are on the right-hand side of the road, which is north facing, therefore maximising sunlight hours. The gentle slopes provide air drainage, reducing the risk of frost. This is helped further by the Kawarau River, on the left-hand side, which draws the cool air down to the gorge. 

Growing in Gibbston means working hard on the vineyard, keeping the crop yield low (so less grapes per vine) and giving the vines every chance to ripen the grapes fully. When Gibbston is good, it’s outstanding, and is capable of producing some exciting and interesting wines. 

Gibbston Pinot Noir at its best is light in colour, has plenty of fresh acidity, very fine grained tannins and flavours of red fruits, herbs and a gamey, meaty character. They tend to be a little bit wild, like the place, and not always the bold and fruity style that you may expect from Central Otago. 

Gibbston white wines are light, very refreshing and full of citrus and green fruit flavours. This is as cool as cool-climate gets in New Zealand, so expect lots of zing! 

Producers to look out for with single vineyard Gibbston whites and reds include Valli, Mt Edward, Gibbston Valley, Waitiri Creek, Hawkeshead, Mt Rosa and Brennan Wines. 

Here’s some 100% Gibbston wines to search out this Saturday: 

Gibbston Valley Le Maitre Pinot Noir 2009
Made from the oldest vines in Gibbston, this wine promises to be a beauty. There’s lots of red fruits, herbal and gamey notes, it’s slightly corrupt and funky and the better for it. This is not a correct wine, but who cares, it’s bloody delicious!!! 

Valli Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
This is a great expression of the terroir of Gibbston with beautiful perfume and floral aromas and an earthy, textured palate. Grant Taylor manages to get consistent ripeness from low cropped vines in his Gibbston vineyard.

Mt Edward Drumlin Riesling 2009
Grown on a steep slope of schist next to Mt Edward’s winery, this is a medium style Riesling with 9% alcohol. There’s lots of citrus, minerals and honey and though a sweeter style, dries off on the finish. It’s great for lunch or pre-dinner and lovely with salty feta.

Check out more at Paul Tudgay’s Wine Down site