Username:    Password:
Thanks for stopping by...
Regional Studies
The Terroir and Wines of the Gibbston Valley and Wineries and Its Western Sub-districts
 - David Farmer

The Gibbston Valley is the closest of the Otago vineyards to the tourist town of Queenstown, a town which fringes the glacial derived Lake Wakatipu. This lake used to drain south west to the sea but recently, probably in the last 10,000 years, this route was blocked and the new lake overflow, the Kawarau River, drains to the east.

This river flows to the Cromwell Basin where is joins the Clutha River. In places the Kawarau River has cut, a spectacular, narrow, gorge with steep to vertical cliffs over 50 metres high which is much loved by bungy jumpers and white water thrill seekers. The Gibbston Valley is a valley from one to three kilometres wide and about five kilometres long that is sliced through by the Kawarau River. It is aligned approximately east-west. The elevation is approximately 400metres. This valley predates the Kawarau River and is filled with sediments dating from 362,000 to 128,000 years.

These valley sediments are all glacially derived and include outwash gravels associated with moraines, weathered fan gravels and alluvium. These are the types of sediment deposited by water flowing from melting glaciers and include gradations from pebble and boulder beds to finer sediment layers, these being derived from the fine rock flour that is made by glaciers as they grind over rock. There is also a boulder, breccia deposit which is probably a landslide deposit.

These sediments have in turn been eroded and the valley now shows a sequence of stepped layers, the top surfaces of which can be flat or gently to moderately undulating and are ideal for growing vines. All the vines though are on valley slopes south of the Kawarau River.

It is difficult to know what the original land surface would have looked like before the Maori and white settlers arrived and in particular what sort of soil profiles had developed. The removal of trees and alluvial gold mining has stripped much of the top soil layers although any soil development would have been restricted to the warmer period after the last ice advance that reached its maximum about 10,000 years ago.

The vines are planted in the unconsolidated valley fill which is quite fertile and drains freely, a feature that vines need. The surface layer also includes recently accumulated fine, wind blown particles, which is common in glaciated terrains and is derived from the fine rock flour made by glaciers.

The best wineries are Peregrine, Mount Edward and Nevis Bluff.

The Western Sub-District of Gibbston Valley Wines and Chard Farm

Gibbston Valley Wines and Chard Farm share similar characters and while they are grouped as part of the Gibbston Valley they are geographically removed and have others differences in valley fill and setting that places them in a sub-district.

Gibbston Valley Wines was established in 1981-1982 with the first plantings being a tiny two hectare plot. This was the first vineyard planted in the Gibbston Valley and the first commercial release was in 1987. It sits in its own small valley. Going west the main Gibbston Valley pinches out between rock walls opens briefly for the small valley of Gibbston Valley wines, abruptly closes between towering rock walls and then opens again into another valley that continues to broaden and merges into the flat areas east of Queenstown. .

It is at the far eastern end of this valley and on the southern slope that the vineyards of Chard Farm precariously cling. Chard Farm was at the turn of the century a market garden and orchard, the produce of which was sold in Queenstown.

Both Gibbston Valley Wines and Chard Farm are planted in very fine rock flour which overlies gravels and sands derived from alluvial fans. The surface layer can be several metres thick and is completely unweathered with no organically enriched ‘top soil’. Up slope at both vineyards these lower sediments merge into scree slope sediments produced from fractured rock and sediment falling off the actively eroding steep mountain slopes. These valley sediments are quite recent being less than 10,000 years in age.

At Chard Farm the rock flour is so fine it has the texture of talcum powder and is very soft and readily eroded. This powder is a uniform grey green colour and is the exact colour of chips of unweathered rock that can be found in the vineyard. It is likely that this rock flour is wind blown, termed loess, and in one cutting at Chard Farm very finely banded layers were exposed suggesting wind blown flour settling out in a pond.

The Gibbston Valley, the tiny valley encompassing Gibbston Valley Wines and the area of Chard Farm are largely developed although there may be room for you a few more hectares in the Gibbston Valley.

Best Gibbston Valley Wineries

Best never lasts for long and this is a young and fast moving scene. Also many Gibbston Valley growers have vineyards at other Otago locations so when you buy one of the brands it may not be 100% from the Gibbston Valley. Check the detail on the label first or email the winery if in doubt. The best are Chard Farm, Peregrine, Gibbston Valley Wines and Mount Edward.

Looking south at the Chard Farm vineyards taken from the road to Queenstown with the Kawarau River gorge in the foreground.



A road cutting on the higher slopes at Chard Farm showing scree deposits overlying a band of wind blown rock flour that also so signs of having settled in a pond and overlying alluvial fan deposits.



Looking north west from Chard Farm with the vineyards behind and shows a layer of ‘loess’ or wind blown rock flour overlying alluvial fan deposits with the gorge of the Kawarau River and in the background the road to Queenstown.



Looking east at Chard Farm with the ‘loess’ layer of rock flour overlying alluvial fan deposits and in the middle distance the paler basement rock. The sediment overlying the basement has been removed by gold mining. The cliffs dropping down into the Kawarau River are on the left. In the distance the gorge opens out into the valley of Gibbston Valley Wines. The Chard Farm vineyards are up the slope to the right.



Old farm houses in the Gibbston Valley, Central Otago.



LANDSCAPE & TERROIR RELATED ARTICLES
The Story of Canberra Viticulture and Wine

Tuesday, 21st June, 2016

The Federation debate continued the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne with the location of the new capital being of great importance. After reviewing many sites the Australia Capital Territory was selected in 1908 at a mid way point between the two cities and declared on 1st January, 1911. Canberra was named as the location in 1913 and Canberra Day is remembered on the 12th March. more...

The Landscape and Vineyards of the Murray Basin

Wednesday, 29th July, 2015

Few wine commentators wish to understand the significance of the Murray Basin taking the view that the basin is no more than a maker of industrial wines. The average wine buyer cannot afford the wines they like to write about and to make price sensitive wines you need regions like the Murray Basin. After all over 60% of the country's wine comes from the Murray Basin while supplying the 30% packaged as casks. more...

The Landscape and Vineyards of the Murray Basin - Appendix 1

Wednesday, 29th July, 2015

To appreciate the wine story of the Murray Basin it helps to understand how the basin formed, or its geological evolution. Please note this long section has no bearing on wine flavours. Also it is a simplification and re-arrangement of the published information. Three issues are of special interest in considering how the Murray Basin evolved; more...

Wine Flavours, Climate, Weather, Soils and Geology

Sunday, 12th January, 2014

The following six articles are based on a talk I gave to the Field Geologists Club of South Australia, on May 2nd 2013.

I took the opportunity to talk to this group to consolidate my thoughts which are captured in the general term 'terroir' which have been maturing since the late 1990s, a time when I wanted to understand the science behind the role of nature, as distinct from wine-making, in the flavours of wine. more...

Terroir Goes Higher and Higher

Friday, 19th October, 2012

Steadily the vine spreads into new regions across the globe and who knows what taste pleasures await us in the years ahead. The vast sweep of country from Turkey to China looks very inviting. more...

The Vines of the NSW South Coast

Wednesday, 28th March, 2012

The birthplace of Australian wines was naturally the Sydney basin. Urban pressure has swamped the vineyards of Sydney though a few lonely outposts survive, such as Camden Estate Wines at Camden where the first plantings date to 1820. Thus it was to be further north in the Hunter Valley that the early vineyards were to survive. more...

Remarks on the Geology and Wines of McLaren Vale

Monday, 6th February, 2012

In August, 2010, a geological map of the McLaren Vale wine region was published. This is the final version of a preliminary map from 2000. I love maps and to me both are works of art though the full blown 2010 version is a thing of beauty. This map shows in great detail the many geological formations from very young to old which underlie this famous vineyard region. more...

The Landscape and Terroir of Eden Valley

Thursday, 29th September, 2011

Quick Facts
The Eden Valley GI region adjoins the Barossa Valley to the east and is of a similar size.
This region is a hilly upland plateau divided in two by the valley of the North Para River which flows north.
This upland region is about 200 metres higher than the Barossa Valley and vineyards are planted at heights of 400 to 550 metres. more...

Altitude, Argentina and the Riverland

Sunday, 11th September, 2011

Should you be interested in creating a wine empire, The Daily Mail, 17th July, 2011, reports that the Estancia Punta del Agua; a one million acre estate, in San Juan province in western Argentine, is for sale. The estate lies about 150 kilometres NNE, of San Juan which has a wine history back to 1569. more...

A Comment on the Red Soils of Heathcote

Sunday, 1st May, 2011

When commenting about wine regions it's not a simple task to write about the geology and the origin of landscapes and soils. Consider this example of the confusion that one region has managed.

Heathcote, the Victorian region noted for fine shiraz makes great use of the districts red soils in selling and marketing. Some say the best vineyards are located on the red soils, and it's suggested, they produce the best wines. Here are nine recent comments. more...

The Excitement of Te Muna Road

Thursday, 7th April, 2011

Looking back over the last 40 years it is amazing the number of new wine regions that have developed across Australia and New Zealand. From farming land to vineyards and still pioneers are finding small sub-regions that are worth a shot. more...

The Soils of the Barossa Valley

Wednesday, 22nd December, 2010

For a dozen or so years now I have spent many happy days digging holes, chipping rocks, and studying the landscapes of a large number of Australian and New Zealand vineyard regions. The object is to try and understand what role things like soils, rocks, and the shape of the landscape, play in the role of creating wine flavours. This is an area French winemakers are very keen on and goes under the general topic of 'terroir'. more...

How Does Soil and Rocks Influence the Taste of Wine?

Wednesday, 19th May, 2010

My studies have lead me to the conclusion that the chemistry of the soils and rocks in which the vine grows add little if anything to the taste of wine. Wine does not show a taste that can be related back to primary or secondary minerals in the soils and weathered rocks. The soils and rocks do though have an important bearing on how necessary nutrients are taken up by the vines and most specifically how the vine gains access to water. This does affect the taste in a major way. more...

Discussions about Soil, Rocks and Wine with Max Marriott

Monday, 27th July, 2009

I have written a lot about the topic of 'terroir' and was recently asked by Max Marriot, landscape photographer and specialist writer, to offer some thoughts about geology, wine and the like. This was to help with an article he was commissioned to do for the New Zealand Grape Grower. more...

In the Footsteps of Colonel Light

Wednesday, 10th June, 2009

I have spent many a happy day wandering the hills and vales pondering how the Barossa landscape formed. An area of great interest is Rocky Gully that runs down from the eastern edge of the Eden Valley into the Barossa Valley. This gully makes no sense to me as it seems to be much bigger than the tiny stream that drains it could possibly have created. more...

An Expression of Unusual New Zealand Terroir

Wednesday, 1st April, 2009

The Chaytor family were early Marlborough settlers (1830-40?) and had grazing properties that spanned country from north of Blenheim at Spring Creek through to Picton. One of these properties, possibly 'Marshlands', near Spring Creek, is now part of the extensive vineyard, Shepherds Ridge, of 73 hectares. Alas I do not have firsthand experience of the Shepherds Ridge vineyard. Wine reviews have been very favourable with many wines scoring 90 plus. more...

On One Hand Terroir Gets Bigger - On the Other it's Taken Away

Saturday, 6th September, 2008

The concept of 'terroir' or a sense of place that it is said may be reflected in the taste of a wine is now embedded in the psyche of French wine makers and many disciples world-wide. It was not always so as there is little mention of this concept until the 1970's though it can be argued that it encapsulates the idea of single vineyards as represented for example by the 1855 Bordeaux left bank grading. more...

Specific Site or Blending?

Sunday, 22nd June, 2008

If you believe what wine writers everywhere are telling us you would come to the conclusion that the very best wines are always site specific. By this they mean you must be able to see the vineyard which produced the grapes and coupled with this they may discuss how the wine expresses the terroir of the site. more...

Buying Wines That Have a Sense of Place

Friday, 11th April, 2008

Currently a number of wine writers are emphasising that wines with a sense of place taste better, or those that express terroir have the true taste of wine. Indeed I gather they are saying that they can detect a wine with a sense of place from drinking it. more...

An Update on the Unfathomable Idea - Terroir

Wednesday, 3rd October, 2007

The idea that the site, the location and aspect, of the vineyard and its exposure to the elements of climate will affect the taste of the grapes and hence the wine seems so obvious as to be hardly worth debating. Any owner of a vineyard whether it is flat as a tack in the Australian Riverland or clinging to a slope in a cool climate region will tell you that part of the vineyard always produces superior fruit to the rest. The famous region of Burgundy has known for five hundred years that parts of its golden slope produce better wines than the rest. more...

Geology Cannot be Found In Wine

Thursday, 18th September, 2006

An aspect of marketing is to tell the story about the product and to enhance the story it can be a good idea to weave in a myth, a mystery or some 'undefined' extra element. The idea is to create for the consumer an emotional bond with the product that goes beyond the mere utility of the product. more...

Terroir - Can It Possible Shine Through the Background Noise

Tuesday, 4th July, 2006

It seems to make sense that the taste of a wine reflects where it is grown. After all Barossa wines do have different aromas and flavours to Tasmanian wines. The French use the term 'terroir' to describe the differences that refect the sense of place where the grapes are grown. more...

Wine Quality: Does Terroir Matter?

Friday, 14th October, 2005

Olivier Gergaud from the University of Reims and Victor Ginsburgh (pictured) of the Université Libre de Bruxelles deserved better than the couple of smart headlines they attracted when they presented a paper at the UK Royal Economic Society annual conference in Nottingham in March this year. The Sunday Observer declared "French bitter over wine study" and Decanter magazine on its website summarised that "Terroir plays no role". But apart from a reference or two on wine web sites that was the extent of the references that I found on Google for the paper Natural endowments, production technologies and the quality of wines in Bordeaux. Does terroir matter? Yet the Gergaud and Ginsburgh paper is one of the more significant contributions yet made to the debate about the comparative impact of terroir and wine making skills on the wine we drink. A look at the Observer's and Decanter's coverage of the story perhaps provides a clue to the overall paucity of the coverage. more...

Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines

Friday, 14th October, 2005

Any vineyard owner will tell you that certain areas of their vineyard make better tasting grapes than other areas. Why some areas of vineyards and vineyard districts deliver better grapes and hence better wine is the subject of terroir studies. The Europeans and particularly the French are very interested in this topic. They extend the meaning of the word which we can roughly say is the flavour effects that come from the vineyard location to include cultural ideas which unite man with the soil. more...




©2017 Glug  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |   RSS Feed
Liquor Licensing Act 1997: It is an offence to sell or supply liquor to a person under the age of 18 years, or to obtain liquor on behalf of a person under the age of 18 years.
All transactions in $AUD. This web site is operated by Glug Management Company Pty Ltd ABN: 64 116 647 780 Licence No: 51401128