Mission Vineyards: 50 shades of grapes

Mission Estate Winery, perched high in the Taradale Hills of Hawkes Bay, is as much a history book as it is a vineyard.

Approaching the extensive property, the first thing to steal your attention is an avenue of plane trees, the solid trunks, 57 in total, have stood sentry here alongside fields of vines since 1911, chaperoning visitors up to La Grande Maison in all its opulence.

The location is undeniably magnificent. Views to the countryside and the distant sea will take your breath away but the Mission’s history most took my fancy.

The walls are covered with photos and artefacts, clues that help to unlock the mysteries of the estate’s rich history and, with the help of Trevor, the cellar door manager, we were taken on a trip back in time.

Starting in France in 1838, the seeds of this fruity tale were sown when a group of French missionaries were granted Papal permission to head for the godless isles of New Zealand.

The brothers, unafraid of adventure, packed up their monastery and sallied forth to the Antipodes.

All aboard the good ship Dauphine, the brothers took with them everything they’d need to offer Holy Communion to the savage souls they hoped to convert along the way.

Of course holy water wouldn’t suffice – they’d need wine, and plenty of it, sacramental and for drinking with meals. No need to rough it completely just because you’re headed to the very end of the earth.

And around the globe the brothers sailed, tending their beloved vines as they went.

Arriving in Russell, the Hellhole of the Pacific, the first Mass was said alongside the Anglicans and then off to Hawkes Bay they went to start their own patch – only the brothers got quite lost.

Arriving in Poverty Bay thinking they were in Hawkes Bay, the men started to put down roots. Two years later, a search party found them and told them they’d got the wrong bay. Oops.

Maps weren’t as detailed back then. In fact, few had even been drawn. So they upped sticks and set off again, walking for six weeks until eventually they arrived at their correct destination, Hawkes Bay. Continue reading


  • Elisabeth Easther, writing in The New Zealand Herald. Elisabeth travelled to Hawkes Bay courtesy of Mission Estate.
  • Image: supplied
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