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Toast to region’s wine industry

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Wine Industry Region Toast

Toast to region’s wine industry

Published: February 23, 2019 12:59PM

Toast to region’s wine industry

CHEERS: Co-organisers of a Historic Places Tairawhiti exhibition about this region’s viticulture and winemaking heritage, Chelle Gandell (left) and Sheridan Gundry, instal pictures and stories for the show, Time in a Bottle which opens tomorrow.
Picture by Liam Clayton

Toast to region’s wine industry

Curious tales abound in the history of this region’s wine industry and they can now be explored in photographs and stories at the Historic Places Tairawhiti exhibition, Time in a Bottle.

Held at the historic Plunket Building from Sunday, the viticulture and winemaking heritage exhibition includes photographs of some of the district’s earliest grape growers and winemakers. Among them is Manutuke winemaker and blacksmith Peter Gurschka who helped Fred Wohnsiedler and Fred Chitty develop their winemaking skills.

In about 1909, Gurschka planted grapes on his land at Te Arai, Manutuke. By 1912, his vines had produced their first profitable crop. Five years later though, the Austrian came to the attention of the authorities for selling wine to soldiers on a Sunday. Found drunk in charge of a horse and vehicle, one witness had in his possession 13 bottles of Gurschka’s wine. The soldiers were reprimanded for associating with an “enemy subject” and for taking liquor from him.

Similarly xenophobic sentiments brought unexpected benefits in the region’s development as a wine district. In 1921, German immigrant Friedrich Wohnsiedler planted grapes for what was to become the region’s first significant commercial winery. Seven years earlier, a crowd of 1000 — fuelled by anti-German hostility — had ransacked the Wohnsiedlers’ Gladstone Road pork butchery and delicatessen. Wohnsiedler, his wife Anna and their three children fled. Days later, his brother Gottlich was one of four Germans arrested at Mangapapa — for being German — and sent to Somes Island in Wellington Harbour for internment.

The Wohnsiedlers took refuge near Matawhero, where Friedrich worked as a farm labourer. In 1917, he bought 10 acres at Waihirere and built a house.

Signs of a positive wine future for Gisborne began to surface in the late 1950s. Wohnsiedler’s Waihirere and Ormond wines were household names among New Zealand wine drinkers, and the wines of Frank Chitty, John Vita and Antonio Zame were enjoyed within the region.

The history of grape growing and winemaking in this region goes much further back though. Reverend William Williams is believed to have planted grapevines at the Kaupapa mission station, Manutuke in 1840 and in 1850 French Marist missionaries Father Lampila and Brothers Basil and Florentin planted grapevines near Muriwai. They had mistaken the coast of Turanganui for the Hawke’s Bay destination they reached the following year. Father Lampila returned to Gisborne in 1852 to find their vineyard bearing a small crop of well-ripened grapes from which he made wine for altar purposes.

The wine was reputedly hijacked on his return trip to Hawke’s Bay and replaced with water.

■ Time in a Bottle is open tomorrow 10am-1pm; and on Saturdays, 9.30am-12.30pm, until the end of March, at the Historic Places Tairawhiti centre for heritage, the former Plunket building on Palmerston Road. A flag will be put out when the exhibition is open during the week.

Toast to region’s wine industry

Curious tales abound in the history of this region’s wine industry and they can now be explored in photographs and stories at the Historic Places Tairawhiti exhibition, Time in a Bottle.

Held at the historic Plunket Building from Sunday, the viticulture and winemaking heritage exhibition includes photographs of some of the district’s earliest grape growers and winemakers. Among them is Manutuke winemaker and blacksmith Peter Gurschka who helped Fred Wohnsiedler and Fred Chitty develop their winemaking skills.

In about 1909, Gurschka planted grapes on his land at Te Arai, Manutuke. By 1912, his vines had produced their first profitable crop. Five years later though, the Austrian came to the attention of the authorities for selling wine to soldiers on a Sunday. Found drunk in charge of a horse and vehicle, one witness had in his possession 13 bottles of Gurschka’s wine. The soldiers were reprimanded for associating with an “enemy subject” and for taking liquor from him.

Similarly xenophobic sentiments brought unexpected benefits in the region’s development as a wine district. In 1921, German immigrant Friedrich Wohnsiedler planted grapes for what was to become the region’s first significant commercial winery. Seven years earlier, a crowd of 1000 — fuelled by anti-German hostility — had ransacked the Wohnsiedlers’ Gladstone Road pork butchery and delicatessen. Wohnsiedler, his wife Anna and their three children fled. Days later, his brother Gottlich was one of four Germans arrested at Mangapapa — for being German — and sent to Somes Island in Wellington Harbour for internment.

The Wohnsiedlers took refuge near Matawhero, where Friedrich worked as a farm labourer. In 1917, he bought 10 acres at Waihirere and built a house.

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