New Zealand pioneer Unison Vineyard interprets Gimblett Gravels terroir | Britt on Forbes

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Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand was famous for its red wines long before Central Otago. Already in 1851, the country’s oldest still existing winery was founded here, Mission Estate. Another prominent pioneer in Hawke’s Bay, founded in early 1900, is Church Road, now owned by French Pernod Ricard.

Having been overrun by Central Otago as the leading red wine region in New Zealand, Hawke’s Bay is again gaining ground. There is an amazing diversity of wines here in Hawke’s Bay, Bordeaux blends and Syrah wine not least.

Now focus is also on the terroir. Proof of this is the attention that Gimblett Gravels is getting. We talked to Jenny Dobson, winemaker at Unison Winery, a small family owned winery in Gimblett Gravels. They make some amazing wines. Unison Vineyard was a pioneer in planting vines on the Gimblett Gravels region in Hawke’s Bay. It is a small vineyard with only 6 hectares, but they make several different wines from a variety of grapes.

Jenny talks about how she works in the vineyard and in the wine cellar, with a lot of inspiration from her time working in Europe. She also shows us a selection of the Unison Vineyard wines, which, overall, are delicious.

You can read more about Jenny Dobson in the article we recently published on her: Jenny Dobson, legendary Kiwi winemaker, talks about changes and challenges in New Zealand.

Read more in Britt’s article on Forbes: “Unison Vineyard, A Pioneer In Gimblett Gravels, A Very Special Terroir Of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand”.

Unison Vineyard Reserve Merlot Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Unison Vineyard Reserve Merlot Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography

Here’s the introduction to the article:

Gimblett Gravels has become a hot spot of New Zealand’s famous Hawke’s Bay wine region. And yet the soil here was considered worthless as late as the mid-1980s. There was nothing here except (this being New Zealand) some sheep. Around that time, however, somebody took a closer look at that deep, well-drained gravelly soil. And before long the sheep were gone.

Gimblett Gravels used to be the former path of the Ngaruroro River. But after a flood in 1867 the river started taking another passage. It left a section of dry river stones behind, forming what is now considered prime vineyard land. As this is a warm soil that retains the heat of the sun it is especially well suited for red grapes. So, the sheep were replaced by neat rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. In 30 years, 2000 acres (800 hectares) were planted.

Union Vineyard was created in 1993 and the owners at the time were among the first to realize the potential of Gimblett Gravels. “This type of poor soil was what they wanted”, says the winemaker Jenny Dobson. Unison now has 14 acres (6 hectares) planted. The estate has changed hands once since its creation and is now owned by Philip and Terry Horn.

Read more in Britt’s article on Forbes: “Unison Vineyard, A Pioneer In Gimblett Gravels, A Very Special Terroir Of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand”.
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Jenny Dobson, winemaker and wine consultant in New Zealand
Jenny Dobson, winemaker and wine consultant in New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography
The vineyard at Unison Vineyard, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
The vineyard at Unison Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography
Ripe syrah in the vineyard at Unison Vineyard, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Ripe syrah in the vineyard at Unison Vineyard, Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography
Unison Vineyard Selection Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Unison Vineyard Selection Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography
Oak barrels in the cellar at Unison Vineyard, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Oak barrels in the cellar at Unison Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography
Unison Vineyard Symphony Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Unison Vineyard Symphony Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, copyright BKWine Photography

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