Matawhero Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020 and Church House Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 2020


Kirsten and Richard Searle purchased Matawhero Wines from New Zealand pioneer winemaker Denis Irwin (founder of Matawhero) in 2008. The Searles have always tried to preserve the heritage they acquired with Matawhero Wines. They’ve restored and re-opened the historic cellar door and they continue to produce classical Gisborne wines with the spirit of innovation that the Irwins possessed.

The wines are made at the GisVin facility with Kim Crawford as the winemaker. The Searles have continued the innovative work of Denis Irwin with the regional and varietally-expressive ‘Matawhero’ range, the 'Single Vineyard', the small-parcels ‘Church House’, and the flagship ‘Irwin’ Chardonnay. All the three Chardonnays are made from Mendoza clone fruit from the well-regarded Tietjen vineyard on the ‘Golden Slopes’, in the Hexton Hills appellation of Gisborne. This narrow 10km strip is made up of small parcels of elevated sloping land. Medium to heavy Kaiti clay base is overlaid with 20-30cm of light black topsoil, with influences from the limestone foothills. The site has had a rich history of producing award-winning Chardonnay for over 20 years. The vines achieve good ripeness and with low yields come excellent flavours and weight to the fruit.

Matawhero's vineyards are 100% naturally dry-farmed; they grow grapes using natural rainfall and no irrigation. Good spring rainfall and a long dry summer combined with high moisture-holding soil types of silken clay and fine silt loams make dry-farming possible.

The 2020 vintage was considered a good one – the crop was up 17% from 2019 in the region. Early spring had higher than usual rainfall but settled in the late spring flowering period, producing healthy yields. A warm and dry summer followed by a cool and dry autumn led to ideal harvest conditions. This is reflected in the quality of the two Chardonnays I reviewed here: Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020 and Church House Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2020 by Matawhero.



  • Matawhero Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020, Gisborne
  • Matawhero Church House Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2020, Gisborne

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