New Zealand is a land of hidden secrets. From North to South there is an ever changing vista of lush pastures covering hills and plains, ancient forests, sweeping beaches, soaring mountains, rolling tussocklands, swift flowing rivers, and beautiful lakes. Each bend of the road takes the traveller to new and different scenic beauty to take your breath away.
That’s what makes our beautiful country so special – there’s more variety in these islands than in a continent. There is unparalleled quality in what we produce too, especially our internationally acclaimed wines.
One of New Zealand’s spectacular wine regions is hidden along the banks of the swift flowing Kawerau River in Central Otago. It is Gibbston, ‘Valley of Vines.’ The arid farmland along the highway as it winds through the gorge from Cromwell to Queenstown was once home to merino sheep and long ago gold miners. It is now a thriving community of vineyards and wineries dedicated to growing the quality grapes that make some of New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir.
Here in the midst of the Valley of Vines at Gibbston Denis Marshall and Ulrike Kurenbach have established the Hawkshead Vineyard.
Vines have been grown in the Gibbston Valley, Central Otago since 1976. It was one of the areas in the region that Italian based viticulturist Romeo Braggato first predicted, in 1895, to be of great potential for the production of Pinot Noir. After experimentation in many different microclimates in the region with different grape varieties, it was found the alluvial soils of the Gibbston Valley together with the Pinot Noir grape produced some of New Zealand's finest Pinot Noir.
The original land use in the valley was extensive merino sheep farming and the Hawkshead Vineyard was once part of the large Waitiri Sheep Station. Waitiri Station had farmed the land since the early 1950's and saw the potential for Viticulture, spending years recording information on climate and soil from their farm. As the land in the Gibbston Valley was developed for viticulture Denis Marshall was fortunate to be able to obtain a most suitable block in 1995 which was to become the Hawkshead Vineyard. The pinot noir grapes are planted on gentle north facing slopes to maximise the full year round sun.
In November 2009 Hawkshead Vineyard became a fully Accredited Vineyard under the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Programme. We see this as a stepping stone and from 2009 all our Pinot Noir is being grown organically.
The first block of 1.5ha was planted in the spring of 2001, and a further 1.5ha in 2002, making the area planted in pinot noir just 3.00ha. These blocks were some of the first in Gibbston growing on over 80% rootstock, being 3309, RPG, and 101/14. The vines are spaced 2.4 metres between the rows and 1.28 metres between plants, creating a plant density of 3255 vines per hectare. At this spacing we budget on 1.6 kg of fruit per vine.
The following clones are planted in the vineyard – Pinot Noir 5, 6, 114, 115, 667, and Able. The clonal material chosen was to provide an extra weight to Hawkshead Pinot Noir. Clone 5 (Pommard) has been used as the skeletal structure to the final blend, with Clone 115 as the muscle, and the Abel clone as the heartbeat that pulls the wine together.
In 2006 2ha of the lower terrace adjacent to SH6 was planted in Pinot Gris. We had our first production from this block in 2009.
The Soils, Elevation and Climate
The soil types of the Gibbston Valley are from the 'Pigburn' series. They contain up to 400-500 mms of wind blown glacial deposits, overlaid with around 4-5 metres of free draining alluvial schist.
The vineyard site is between 390 and 410 metres above sea level, and on average is likely to 'experience' 870 – 930 Growing Degree Days. Rainfall each year is approximately 650mm.
Working within these parameters is challenging but we have an excellent team dedicated to producing the very best wine. Like the extreme adventure tourism Queenstown is famous for, growing grapes in this environment is an exciting business. 45 degrees south is right on the edge for viticulture.
Denis has a lifelong love of the land. He grew up in the Rangitikei where he farmed for many years before entering Parliament in 1984. He represented Rangitikei for 15 years and during his time in the National Government he was for 6 years as an Associate Minister of Agriculture with responsibility for horticulture, 5 years Minister of Conservation and for 3 years Minister of Lands. These responsibilities enabled him to gain a real insight into and understanding of the often sensitive issues of conservation and land use. In 2000 he was the Founding Chairman of the NZ National Parks & Conservation Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to raising funds from individuals, businesses, and the community to support conservation projects throughout New Zealand. Over $2m has been donated to a wide range of projects since the Foundation was established.
Denis loves the wide-open spaces, the lakes, mountains and bush of the South Island, and in 1995 he purchased the land in the Gibbston Valley, which was to become the Hawkshead Vineyard. The first Pinot Noir vines were planted in 2001, and a second block was planted in 2003. In 2005 he and his partner Ulrike Kurenbach established the Hawkshead Vineyard Partnership. The focus is on careful land use and soil management, with minimum interference with nature.
Ulrike appreciated wine from an early age. She grew up in the Rhineland, one of Germany's wine regions. Ulrike studied Food Technology and has worked in the hospitality industry. She has also studied Art and Design. Ulrike firmly believes food, wine and art complement each other. They all require creativity to flourish. On her arrival in New Zealand Ulrike became actively involved in promoting New Zealand food and wine at culinary fairs in Europe. During that time she also appreciated being in the judging panel of the Taste New Zealand Awards.
Denis and Ulrike are fully immersed in all aspects of the vineyard and oversee the viticultural operations.
- Hawkshead Pinot Gris 2009 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2010, Gold Medal and Trophy Wines)
- Hawkshead First Vines Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2009, Award Winning Wines)
- HAWKSHEAD PINOT GRIS 2009 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2010, Award Winning Wines)
- HAWKSHEAD VINEYARD - FIRST VINES PINOT NOIR - 2010 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2013, Award Winning Wines)
- Hawkshead Pinot Noir 2006 (International Wine and Spirit 2007, New Zealand Gold and Silver Medal Wines)
- Hawkshead Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2009 - Denis Marshall (Bragato Wine Awards 2011, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)