Let’s go wine tasting on Waiheke island we decided.
There are several companies operating wine tours out of Auckland but one of the most reasonably priced tours is Wine on Waiheke operated by Fullers.
The boat left from Auckland’s Ferry Building at 1pm.
The crossing was a little rough – we hadn’t anticipated a rollercoaster ride as part of the ticket.
On arrival at the dock, Philippe the tour bus driver was holding a large Wine on Waiheke sign as he met everyone off the boat.
Waiheke has a population of ,500 permanent residents but at Christmas it becomes 44,000 as tourists and holiday makers descend upon the island
1,200 people commute from Auckland to the island on a daily basis for work in construction or tourism. I wonder how they feel about the ride home with everyone off the wine tours.
Our first stop was the Mudbrick Vineyard where we met Bob whose approach to wine tasting was sombre and serious as was demonstrated when he told us…
…there is only one question that matters in wine tasting and it’s not ‘What is it?’
The only question that matters with wine, said Bob, is: Do you like it?
Bob was going to make us work for our glasses of wine and the tastings were mostly done in different fields of the vineyard.
Mudbrick has grown from five to 28 acres and this field, which had produced and was where we finished off our first glass of wine, was filled with pinot gris vines.
Ironically, pinot gris doesn’t usually grow well on Waiheke… except here.
This is a Southwest facing vineyard, looking towards Antartica, exposing it to cold winds. Pinot gris actually grows well here but doesn’t taste quite like pinot gris from European vineyards.
Our next stop, though we didn’t taste its wine was a field of merlot vines.
There is a humid climate on the island which creates a fungus risk. Removing the leaves allows the wind to move through the plants reducing the risk.
However, the whistling wind strips heat from the vineyard so the task is to slow the wind speed with wind breaks and nets.
I asked Bob if the business was noticing any impact from climate change.
Yes. In 2016, 2017 and 2018 they had wet vintages as a result of storms from the Southern Ocean arriving a couple of months earlier than they should, during the picking.
2019 was no different though the storms had arrived on days when the grapes weren’t being picked.
How can the wine industry on Waiheke respond to this?
They’re responding by changing the vines planted. All the growers are having to adapt.
Our next stop was Cable Bay Wines.
I’m not sure if the second and third stops on the wine tasting tour give up because they know everyone had three (small) glasses of wine by now or if nobody can follow Bob’s engaging presentation but we weren’t told nearly as much at Cable Bay.
It was a more staid presentation about the wines we were tasting – all of which were very good.
What was also very good were the cheese platters, which also included some beautiful honey produced locally.
These couldn’t have come a moment too soon.
Philippe had given us the option of lingering over the wine or leaving ten minutes early for a min tour of the Waiheke.
They weren’t large glasses of wine.
We arrived at Te Moto where Philippe pointed out the roses growing at the end of the rows of vines.
These have traditionally been used as an indication of infection in the vines – problems appear in the roses before the grapes.
Te Moto is one of Waikeke’s original vineyards and is apparently smaller than Mudbrick and Cable Bay but I’m sure our wine host said they have 38 acres.
Of course, this was the third vineyard we had visited.
The valley is warmer than Mudbrick and Cable Bay being further away from the coast and at a lower altitude, meaning that different grapes can be grown and different tastes achieved.
Waiheke is not the largest island but there is huge variety in what is grown and produced there. This was a fascinating afternoon..
But of course, you, dear reader want the crucial details.
- Cost 150 NZD per person which included tour and return ferry transport.
- Wines – 9 or 10 (dependent on whether your friend mentions the sneaky second glass of white you weren’t expecting. He didn’t).
- Departure from Auckland is at 1pm.
- Drop off for the return ferry is 5.30pm, unless you want to take advantage of the included bus pass and stay in the island for a little longer.