The wonderful wines of Waiheke

Posted by Joelle Thomson on

Waiheke Island is the best known and most inhabited island of the Hauraki Gulf, which is a mostly serene stretch of water surrounding Auckland, so imagine our surprise when our store staff ventured north to one of the bumpiest boat rides we could remember.

The 40 minute catamaran trip was not smooth sailing, so to speak, when 12 of us from Regional Wines & Spirits and our big sibling, the Hamilton Beer & Wine Company, went to Waiheke. Luckily, upon landing on terra firma, the winery visits were amazing.

Our Waiheke Island visit included Passage Rock, Man O’ War and Sam Harrop wines, all vastly different and each one fascinating in its own way with wine styles highlighting the warm climate and individualistic winemaking methods on this interesting slice of sub tropical paradise. 

Man O’ War 

  • Biggest winery on the island 
  • Names of all wine are after historic boats that have harboured there
  • 350 tonne winery
  • 100% estate grown fruit
  • Coastal breezes, elevated sites enable the wines to retain acidity
  • Man O’ War farm has been owned by the Berridge family for many generations 
  • The wine brand was begun by John Berridge and his son Spencer

2019 Man O’ War Waiheke Sauvignon Blanc
One of the only producers to grow Sauvignon grapes on Waiheke. This white label is their entry level white; all stainless fermented and inoculated; a light, tropical style with soft acidity adding some liveliness and length.


2017 Man O’ War Waiheke Gravestone
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon (15% approximately), fermented in old oak with a wild ferment. Medium body and length. Funky aromas and flavours. Reductive, tight with fresh flavours.


2018 Man O’ War Waiheke White label Chardonnay
Fresh, bright, medium body, creamy and soft. A good quality entry level dry white.

2018 Man O’ War Waiheke Valhalla Chardonnay
Very creamy and rich No malo style policy, all puncheon ferment, mostly old with some new. Some interesting puncheons, including acacia. High glycerol style from hot climate. Long, full and dry.

2019 Man O’ War White Label Pinot Gris
Off dry style picked earlier to retain acidity yet also retains high glycerol with high phenolics. This is a sweet style with 20-30 grams residual sugar. Spicy, tropical fruit flavours, smooth and fresh with low acidity.

2019 Man O’ War Waiheke Exiled Pinot Gris
This richer wine is made mostly from grapes grown on Ponui Island with a small percentage of grapes from Waiheke. Spicy and fresh, 100% stainless ferment, inoculated, minimal fining and fresh. Botrytis adds complexity and is a natural feature of grapes grown on both islands. 

2019 Man O’ War Waiheke Pinque
Pale pink rosé blend of Syrah with a little Malbec and Merlot. Bottled with a small amount of dissolved carbon dioxide to help with the aging and freshness of the wine.

2017 Man O’ War Waiheke White Label Syrah
A harder than usual vintage on the island, as for many regions in New Zealand that year. A selection of vineyards that wouldn’t go into Dreadnaught; the winery’s top Syrah. Good quality, medium bodied with light chocolatey notes – tasty with light intensity of flavour.

2017 Man O’ War Waiheke Dreadnaught Syrah
Very big smooth soft chocolate notes and richness. Spicy and full bodied. Whole bunch ferments add tannin and breadth to the mouthfeel and retain freshness.

2017 Man O’ War Waiheke Ironclad
This is the winery’s nod to Bordeaux and is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc grows well on Waiheke and is all about hillside vines in this wine, which is my pick of the Man O’ War Waiheke reds. It's easy to admire its structure, depth and length.


Passage Rock Wines, Waiheke Island

  • Waiheke vineyards are typically low yielding with a lower average tonnage yield of grapes per hectare compared to other regions in the country.
  • Passage Rock Wines has two tiers of wines – white label and reserve
  • The winery was started in 1993 with a long drop and a caravan as a husband-wife partnership
  • Began small with 3 acres of vines and took on more vineyards over time
  • They now own land around the winery and around the island as well as leasing vineyards on land that was formerly Peninsula Estate.

2019 Passage Rock Waiheke Sauvignon Blanc
Guava and tropical fruit flavours; fresh, medium bodied, varietal but far riper in style than Sauvignons from further south. This wine is smooth, soft and fresh.

2019 Passage Rock Waiheke Viognier
Aromatic white with peach skin and creamy flavours, 700 bottles produced a year. Barrel ferment in barriques.

2018 Passage Rock Waiheke Reserve Chardonnay
Have made Chardonnay for 12-15 years and now have some old vines in Oneroa with low yields of about 2 tonnes a hectare. This wine is made with a partial wild ferment and full solids. Partial malolactic fermentation provides some softness but acidity is retained to add refreshing qualities. Aged in a combo of new and older French oak, 30% new approximately. 

2018 Passage Rock Wild and Free Reserve Waiheke Chardonnay
This wine is 100% free run juice with a wild yeast ferment in 500 litre puncheons and zero malolactic fermentation. It has pronounced acidity and butterscotch flavours with a long, zesty citrus finish. Flavours of lemon crème brulee. Delicious full bodied dry white.

2018 Passage Rock Sisters
This is a dry red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, which is dry, smooth and spicy with classic notes of Cabernet coming through along with juicy bright intense fruit notes. 

2014 Passage Rock Reserve Syrah
Passage Rock wines has produced Syrah since 1999 and has won many trophies, including at International Wine Competition (IWC), the world's biggest annual wine competition. In 2014, the yield was lower than usual with very dry conditions. About 100 barrels of Syrah a year are made, the top 20 going into the reserve wine, which is only produced in good years.

This wine is dry, full bodied and has noticeable acidity with firm smooth tannins and pronounced flavours of licorice, dark rich black plum.

2019 Passage Rock Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

This is a very youthful, very intense and flavoursome blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and about 5% Malbec. A real keeper with it dense purple colour and big firm smooth tannins. Beautiful  dark and impressive.  


Sam Harrop Wines, tasted at The Batch winery

Sam Harrop is a New Zealand Master of Wine who lived in the United Kingdom for 15 years after studying winemaking at Lincoln in 2002, working at Villa Maria, Esk Valley and then Litorai in the United States. His winemaking carer began at Stonyridge on Waiheke, so h has come full circle. He also consults to international wineries and has winemaking interests overseas.



2013 Cedalion Sam Harrop Single Vineyard Chardonnay Waiheke
Made from grapes cropped at extremely low levels of one tonne a hectare, no barrel stirring - “I wanted to make a linear reserved style of Chardonnay.”

Fermentation and maturation in 300 litre barrels, 25% new, aged for 12 months, sulphur added.


2017 The Grand Amateur Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay

Very good Chardonnay but a one off since grapes were not available from the Howell Vineyard in 2017, which is his long standing Chardonnay source in the Bay. This wine is made exactly the same way as Cedalion above, only the grapes come from a different region, in this case from a higher altitude vineyard on a cool, inland Hawke’s Bay site at Bridge Pa at 150 metres above sea level. Fermented over 90 days at 9 degrees. Flinty character. 10% malolactic fermentation.

2018 Sam Harrop Chardonnay Bridge Pa 

This wine is made with grapes from the Howell Vineyard in Hawk's Bay and is made in tiny volumes; only 800 bottles of this wine were produced. It was fermented and aged in 228 litre barrels with a medium toast, given 66% malolactic fermentation and barrel aged for 20 months.


2014 Cedalion Single vineyard Waiheke Syrah

Two different Syrah clones were hand sorted as individual berries then cold soaked for three days with very low sulphur with two different types of yeasts. They were fermented and aged in 28% new oak.

This is an impressive, individualistic, smooth and powerful style of Syrah. A note that applies to all of Sam's wines, which push boundaries of style while retaining high quality across the board.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →