Records show the first wine to be made from local grapes went into sacramental wine made by Marist missionaries.
In the early 1900s Austrian Peter Gurska, a gardener for the Clark family at Opou, began making wines with European varieties. And he helped Frederick Chitty set up his Glenelg Vineyard at Hexton.
But the true pioneer of commercial wine-making in Gisborne was Frederich Wohnsiedler, a German who set up a vineyard at Waihirere after being chased out of town during World War 1.
Port, madeira and sherry were the favoured drops of the era and a book was kept recording all sales.
It was not until the late 1960s that other commercial companies began to focus on Gisborne as a promising grape growing area and soon Montana and Corbans had built wineries in the Industrial Subdivision.
Penfolds (NZ) Wines followed suit in the 1970s and the winegrape industry began a rapid period of growth to at one stage having the largest area in vineyards in the country. It is now the third largest grape growing region, with 1811ha planted.
The region was unfortunate to earn itself a reputation for bulk wines, which has taken a long time to throw off. And in the late 1970s and early 1980s it entered a stormy phase with wine conglomerates versus growers in many battles over prices.
Over-supply loomed and in December 1985 the Government announced it would pay $6175 a hectare under an extraction scheme. The vineyards that were pulled out included 92ha established in the late 1970s as the Waiapu Vineyard on the East Coast.In the 1980s, growers also weathered the outbreak of phylloxera which was found to be widespread in an infra-red aerial survey undertaken by viticulturist Richard Smart, an Australian who revolutionised trellising systems and canopy management. In later years wine competitions have seen Gisborne wines up among the best in the world. And in changing varieties, growers have taken great pride in their vineyards.
Industry operators have been told often to open their eyes to the fact that Gisborne vineyards are one of the region's greatest treasures.