Taking a Look At Waiheke Island Wines

I was introduced to a couple of wines from the area some years ago. I first tasted wines from Man O’War when I worked for a time at a wine shop called Maslow 6 in Tribeca. The wine shop has now closed and it was incredibly hard to find the wines today. I finally found a couple of bottles in California that I got shipped to me but didn’t arrive in time for this post. However, I have my notes from the previous time I tasted these wines.

Apparently Captain James Cook first discovered Waiheke island in the 1700s.  The rock here is from the Jurassic era.  The soils tend to be clay and naturally low in ph. The island has low rainfall, alluvial soils and a lot of fresh sea breezes. Grape varieties grown here include the Bordeaux varieties such as Syrah, Viognier, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Pinot Gris, Montepulciano and even Sauvignon Blanc. On Waiheke, there are today over 30 vineyards.

Waiheke is about 35 minutes from Auckland. While I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting New Zealand, I have been lucky enough to taste some of the Man O War lineup including the Graystone – a blend of Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc, the Valhalla Chardonnay and the Dreadnought Syrah. All three surprised me. All three were very interesting both in terms of their aromas and flavors. The semillion in the Graystone ferments in old oak with cultured yeast while the Sauvigon ferments in tank with wild yeast. The two are then blended producing a rich wine with exotic fruit characteristics.

The Valhalla Chardonnay was made with whole bunch pressing and wild yeast fermentation and is very full and layered in terms of its taste profile with a velvety buttery, creamy mouthfeel.

The Dreadnought Syrah was a nice expression of Syrah, more muted than I might have imagined.

These wines surprised me and made me want to get to know the area more intimately. In addition to the great wines, the setting cannot be beat.

Sadly, it’s super hard to get any wines from Waiheke in the US but hopefully that will change.

This month the World Wine Travel writers are taking a virtual trip to New Zealand’s North Island. You can read the invitation post here. Check out my fellow bloggers’ post about North Island, New Zealand. All of these posts will be live between Friday, October 21st and Saturday, October 22nd.


  1. I’m anxious to read the tasting notes on the wines that you found available here from CA. Sometimes I am able to get shipping to MI. It’s always a toss up.

  2. I love Waiheke Island and their wines! So cool that you were able to find and try some. Appreciated getting to read about them!

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