Man O’War – Wine of New Zealand

By Franz Scheurer


Captain Cook is responsible for naming the Man O’War station on Waiheke Island (off Auckland), as this is where he cut the tall Kauri trees to be used as masts on his Man O’War sailing ships. The Spencer family planted the first grapes on the Man O’War station some fifteen years ago on the sheltered, and incredibly steep, north facing slopes. Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf is a rugged and beautiful place and the Man O’War farm encompasses an olive grove, a sheep and cattle farm and of course a vineyard and their wines are astonishingly good.


I had the chance to try all of their current releases over the last few days and I’m happy to share my latest ‘discovery’ with you. One of the points of difference is the fact that they work with a soil type that is unique to Waiheke Island. It is called stony batter clay loam and it contributes largely to the otherwise coastal terroir. This is reflected in their wines and adds an interesting dimension to their texture.


There are two tiers of wines, black labels and white labels. In the black label series there’s the Gravestone Sauvignon Blanc, Valhalla Chardonnay, Ironclad Bordeaux Red and the Dreadnought Syrah. In the white label series you find the Man O’War Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot Cabernet and Syrah. Let me tell you right now that every single wine is worth drinking. All of them are above average in quality and well worth seeking out. There are a couple of standouts:


The first outstanding wine is the Man O’War Valhalla Chardonnay 2007 and I’d be happy to compare this with any New World Chardonnay on the market. It is simply fantastic.  Hand harvested, whole bunch pressed, cold settled, fermented in old French oak barrels and matured for 10 months.  This is a rich, bold Chardonnay, definitely New World, but not oak dominated. It is golden in colour, bottled at a whopping 14.5% a/v but remains an elegant wine. With a grapefruit and honeydew nose, it confirms the citrus aromas on the palate and caresses the entire inside of your mouth with a creamy texture that is immediately alluring. It finishes long and perfectly balanced. Although there is still quite a bit of acidity present it never interferes with the balance of this wine and I expect this to get better for almost a decade.

Fantastic wine!


The second outstanding wine is the Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2007. The fruit for this wine is harvested from the steepest and hottest vineyard sites, destemmed, open fermented, plunged throughout fermentation and the skins are left even after the fermentation has finished. This is a wine for lovers of ‘dark aromas and flavours’. Although red berry fruit is there, this is a savoury, spicy wine with lots of ‘forest floor’ aromas. It is an ‘in your face’ wine that is eminently drinkable now but shows all the signs that make a great, aged wine. If you have the patience, leave it for at least a decade and it will reward you with one of the best, integrated and balanced wines I can imagine.

Both the above wines are a must in any wine lovers cellar. They are distributed in Australia, so it is possible to find then. Otherwise contact the winery direct on: +64 9 303 9677 or by e-mail:


A special thanks for Bronwyn Skuse for introducing me to these wonderful wines. I can’t thank you enough!