We published this grape and aggregate story some years ago in Q&M magazine as an excellent, if not unique, example of where a quarry neighbour gratefully appreciates any dust coming their way from the quarry on its border. By Alan Titchall.
When not writing about extraction and civil contracting I used to write about food and wine and, some years ago, I attended a media lunch hosted by Villa Maria to sample some of the company’s top, single vineyard wines.
Included was the Villa Maria Reserve (Reserve Barrique) Chardonnay from Gisborne. As a venerated Kiwi wine maker, Villa Maria is no stranger to awards and accolades, but this chardonnay has picked up more (award) gold than is mined out of Waihi in any given day, without mentioning the numerous prestigious show trophies it has taken home.
Most of the fruit (grapes) comes from a tidy, gently sloping, little vineyard called McDiarmid Hill on the base of Gentle Annie (a bloody big hill to Gisborne’s north-west).
There are many reasons why this chardonnay is consistently one of the country’s most awarded, among them; the advantageous position of the vineyard and the skill of the wine making.
But you could have knocked me over with a feather when Villa Maria’s company viticulturist Oliver Powrie told me, with a bit of a grin, he is pretty sure the dust from the local quarry also has something to do with the quality of the McDiarmid grapes!
These grapes are grown on eight hectares next to the entrance to Patutahi Quarry that is leased from the McDiarmid family.
The quarry, owned by Rock Products, produces gabion, chip, road stone and agriculture lime from a very hard lime resource on the sides of a valley where the McDiarmid farm starts to get very steep.
On my visit in February 2016, when the temperature was hitting 30 degrees, you could see dry lime dust gently drifting down the valley and settling over rows of grapes as they ripened towards their autumn harvesting.
Frank Alderton, Rock Products managing director and son of the quarry’s founder Jack Alderton, laughed down the phone when I mentioned the award-winning neighbouring grapes.
“About time we started charging them for the dust.”
Tony Green was the viticulturist at McDiarmid at the time and during the magazine’s visit spoke highly of the good neighbourly bonding between grapes and aggregate, quarrying and winemaking, but plays down the role of the free lime from the quarry.
“It could certainly help.
“The soil is mostly light pumice and doesn’t hold a lot of minerals and is very low in lime, so the irony is we still have to buy in lime.”
The neighbourly relationship goes a lot deeper than fertiliser.
“We get on very well with the quarry and even share the same entrance.
“In the early days, when they reclaimed land near us, we built a dam together on our vineyard from a spring and a swamp, which was very useful for irrigation when the plants were young. It’s still a good resource for the likes of spraying.”