Established in 1968 by the late William (Bill) N. Irwin, the Matawhero vineyards originally supplied contract grapes for local wineries. Bill was literally the father of modern viticulture in New Zealand and it was his drive and determination that lead to the importation of new grape varieties.
Denis Irwin set up the Matawhero Wine label in the mid-1970s using a small part of the grapes his father Bill grew and sold to other Gisborne wineries.
Success followed quickly with both Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay wines attracting national and international attention. The 1977 Matawhero Gewürztraminer achieved fourth in a wine show in Paris – an astonishing achievement at the time for a new world wine. The 1978 vintage of even higher standard; everyone was drinking it including the Queen.
Sometimes austere, sometimes flamboyant often requiring some experience of life and wine to understand his produce; Matawhero Wines were a realistic reflection of Denis the person. As Denis says himself, “In a world reading Woman’s Weekly, I was doing Emerson.”
Denis’ last Matawhero labelled vintage was in 1999. He has since retired from the winery operation on the Matawhero Estate and is now running the Colosseum, a bar and function centre just a stone’s-throw from the Matawhero vineyards, he still taps into his cellared stock. We hear that the 1999 Matawhero Chardonnay is still drinking well!