The Bridge is Back!

Released on 16/07/2008

The Bridge Estate vineyard, renowned for some of New Zealand's great Bordeaux-style red wines of the last 20 years, has changed hands and will recommence production from this year.

Formerly owned by Matawhero Wines Ltd, the 6 acre Bridge Estate vineyard has been sold by former Matawhero proprietor Denis Irwin.

New Zealand's own ‘little corner of Bordeaux' will recommence production as of the 2008 vintage under the ownership of the Poverty Bay Wine Estates Ltd, owned by the Sorensen Family, who have a long association with the Gisborne area.

The vineyard contains the four classic Bordeaux varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec and again produced grapes of considerable finesse this vintage, despite having fallen into a little ‘elegant disarray' according to Poverty Bay's Klaus Sorensen.

It was too early to establish whether the 2008 vintage was of sufficient quality to justify the top label Bridge Estate wine," however with the enthusiastic assistance of our consultant winemaker Anita Ewart-Croy, we are cautiously optimistic, and will certainly be producing at least one red, if not two and a Rose which will be released later this year." says Sorensen.

"A period of ill health prevented Denis from managing the Bridge Estate to quite the extent that he might have preferred, but fortunately both the Bridge Estate and Denis are on the road to recovery.

"Having been supporters of Matawhero for over 30 years it is a privilege to be able to acquire the Bridge Estate, with the warm blessing of Denis, and to be able to reinstate the vineyard and the Bridge Estate Bordeaux blend to its original status.

Named after the old steel-arched Matawhero Bridge, which was the original southbound crossing point over the Waipaoa River but now lies unused across the road from the vineyard, the Bridge Estate blend has been described as possessing "a structure as solid as the bridge it was named after".

A replanting programme to replace some of the ‘fallen soldiers' in the vineyard will take place this Spring to bring the vineyard back to full health, with additional plantings of Malbec and Cabernet Franc to ensure flexibility in selecting varieties for blending purposes.

Poverty Bay has purchased the Bridge Estate label and name and will continue that label for its premium wine, while introducing several other wines, including an uncompromising Rose, under the Poverty Bay label.

First planted in 1985 as a gesture of mild defiance by Denis Irwin, at the time of a government-sponsored grape pull, the vineyard has now reached a charming level of ‘Old Vines' maturity reflected in the quality and intensity of the grapes harvested in 2008.

The top Bridge Estate label was produced only in exceptional years, but remaining examples such as the 1989 have stood up remarkably well, with Daniel Kemp of Kemp Rare Wines, who will distribute Bridge Estate, describing it as one of the great Bordeaux style wines produced in New Zealand.

That blend was unusual in relation to other Bridge Estate vintages, being a Malbec predominant blend (34 per cent Malbec, 30 per cent Merlot, 20 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 16 per cent Cabernet Franc) while in other years Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon have been predominant.

Magnums of 1989 Bridge are on offer through specialist rare wine distributors for between $345 -$392 a bottle.

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