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New Zealand in pictures: Gisborne

The penultimate leg of our New Zealand adventure began with a chartered Air New Zealand flight from Blenheim to Gisborne, where we were treated to views of Marlborough, Martinborough and Hawkes Bay’s patchwork quilt of vineyards.

National treasure, wine writer Bob Campbell, brought the experience to life with a tutored tasting of wines from each of the regions we flew over, including an earthy Martinborough Pinot Noir and a silky Hawke’s Bay Syrah.

With summer in full swing, shortly after touching down in Gisborne we hit the beach for a picnic lunch at Waikanae Surf Club, then headed to the Memorial Hall Theatre for a jam-packed day focusing on Chardonnay and sparkling wine. The seminars explored everything from the recent trend towards reduction in Chardonnay to the evolution of New Zealand’s finest fizzes.

After a busy day of slurping, with blue skies blazing, we headed for dinner at Opou Homestead, which had dream home written all over it.

It was a dinner of such lavish proportions, Marie Antoinette would have been proud. This abundant crate of crustaceans were the amuse bouche.

Keen to make friends with the locals, we snuck off and scouted out this wooly jumper, who seemed as curious to meet us as we were…

Among the leading lights of the Gisborne wine scene is Milton Vineyards, the first estate in New Zealand to be certified biodynamic, headed up by husband and wife duo Annie and James Milton. During a visit to their beautiful estate, James gave us a tour of his vines, asking us to “step on the roof of another kingdom”.

Representing for the next generation of Miltons was Annie and James’ son Sam, who is equally passionate about biodynamics and the potential of the wines from Gisborne, where Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and aromatic whites like Viognier have found a happy home.

Rocking up fashionably late to the tasting at Milton Vineyards in a set of seriously cool wheels was Brent Laidlaw of the Gisborne Garagiste Wine Co., maker of some of the most exciting wines we tried on our trip. We particularly loved his juicy Saint Laurent.

The most beautiful labels were from Longbush Wines, whose delicate bird sketches caught our eye from across a crowded tasting room…

Shortly after we arrived in Gisbourne we were given a warm Marori welcome, known as a powhiri, at Whakato Marae, where we were invited to participate in the hongi – a traditional maori greeting where people press their noses together. The Maoris believe that during the hongi, the ‘ha’ (breath of life) is exchanged in a symbolic show of unity.

As part of our welcome we enjoyed a live performances of a number of traditional Maori songs, some of which were more gentle than others…

The live performances included a haka war dance, which was traditionally performed before going into battle to scare the opposition.

During the haka performers stick their tongues out and widen their eyes as an act of intimidation and a display of courage.

The wine writers in attendence, including the UK’s own Jamie Goode, were encouraged to have a go at the haka. Goode opted for the topless haka to keep cool under the sizzling sun.

It’s not only men who perform hakas, women take part in the war dance too, but they don’t stick their tongues out during the performance.

The haka is traditionally performed at Maori welcome ceremonies and has also been embraced by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team in order to scare their opponents before important international matches.

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