Life & Style


Wine: Our favourite bubbles

By Yvonne Lorkin


New wave Gisborne wine grape juice

Posted 6 September 2015 

I must confess, I'm impressed by these new alcohol free wine grape juices (and I am surprised to say so too, because wine grapes should really be destined to make wine, right?)...

The new First Press juices which landed on my desk this month come from Gisborne Gourmet and are made from wine grapes, which were grown to make wine. As in the winemaking process, they were picked, crushed and pressed; so far, so true to wine, but here the juice took a deviation. It was crushed and pressed, then stored in stainless tanks for a short period; then chilled down, pasteurised and bottled. As the labels say, these juices contain zero alcohol (0% ABV). 

The idea was the brainchild of the Thorpe family and is being marketed by Gene Walker; a family member (by marriage) and also a talented designer (as the labels of First Press juices reveal). “We chose varietals that Gisborne is known for, such as Gewürztraminer  which is something that Gisborne does very well; it has that explosive flavour and style from here,” Walker said, when explaining the decision to draw off between 1500 to 2000 litres of juice from each of the varieties that the family was making for their own wines. "We have the tank capacity and we have the business set up to allow us to experiment like this," Walker says.Another factor that helped in the creation of the first vintage of First Press juices was the 2015 New Zealand vintage; a great year for Gewurztraminer, so higher volumes of this juice were produced.

The idea of First Press juices was two pronged. Firstly, the family wanted to experiment to see how the market would respond to the creation of wine grape juice, minus the alcohol. And secondly, it was a response to the market at present, which is in need of full flavoured, lower than usual alcoholic beverages. 

Without the alcohol, the flavours and texture of these juices remain intensely viscous; spicy flavours and floral aromas dance in the Gewürztraminer grape juice. There is also a full bodied, zero alcohol Chardonnay First Press juice, which tastes just like... Chardonnay, without the alcohol. There are others in the range; all made from wine grapes. They are all bottled in 250ml bottles and 500ml sizes; the retail price is $5 to $7 each. To date, the market (bars, restaurants and cafes) are responding favourably in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Auckland, but Walker says it has been mostly word of mouth and the intention is to spread the message more formally too, hence this story. 

The Gisborne Gourmet company is owned by a family with a long history of entrepreneurship in the Gisborne region; producing grafted vines (Geoff Thorpe), cheeses (Rick Thorpe), fruit orchards (Bill Thorpe) and wine (John Thorpe).