GRAD® Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon Clones 1 & 2

GRAD® Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon Clones 1 & 2, in brief:

  • Two high-health, D.N.A.-identified, clones derived from the old pre-phylloxera Te Kauwhata Cabernet Sauvignon genetic line.
  • Both GRAD® Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon clones were developed in the GRAD® r&d nursery by regeneration and re-selection of material from remnant experimental double-heat-treated old Te Kauwhata vines: first heat-treated in the later 1960s by D.S.I.R; and then the ex-D.S.I.R. h.t. material was heat-treated a second time in the early 1980s by M.A.F., although it appears never to have been released to the industry. In the GRAD® nursery, I experimented with multiple rounds of high temperature shoot-tip re-propagation. After several years of growing-on the plantlets I had produced, I selected for best vine health and robustness combined with early ripening and superior small-berried bunch morphology (consistent with descriptions of the finest Bordeaux lines of pre-phylloxera Cabernet Sauvignon).
  • The old Te Kauwhata Cabernet Sauvignon vine stock was imported from South Australia by Romeo Bragato in the 1890s and 1900s. In turn, all of South Australia’s Cabernet Sauvignon (until ca. 1980) came from material sourced in the 1840s and ’50s from William Macarthur who imported the variety from Chateau Latour, and / or Chateau Leoville, in 1837 through his family’s business partners Barton and Guestier. (Members of the B&G families owned part of Ch. Latour, and all of Ch. Leoville at the time.)  The old T.K. Cabernet Sauvignon is thus derived from a Rolls Royce pre-phylloxera Bordeaux genetic line. It is also from the very same genetic line of Cabernet Sauvignon that established all of the classic 1950s – 1970s Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in South Australia.
  • Both GRAD® Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon clones have tested free of detectable virus by PCR test, and have tested negative for GLRaV1,2,3, and GVA by E.L.I.S.A. test.
  • Significantly earlier ripening, but lower yielding, than the widely grown high-cropping U.C.D. 7 and 8 clones. Also smaller-berried than both these U.C.D. clones, giving more powerful, concentrated, intense wines, with classic (perhaps even ‘Ch. Margaux-like’) pencil shavings / cedar and red currant aromatics and red currant and cassis flavours with intense tannin and good balancing acidity.
  • GRAD® 1 & 2 Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon are now probably the sole contemporary super-high-health remnants of the line of Cabernet Sauvignon used by Bernard Chambers in his famous Te Mata Cabernet Sauvignon plantings. Offspring from this line was also later used by Tom McDonald in the renown McWilliams Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignons.
  • This is by far the finest Cabernet Sauvignon genetic line with the best and longest track record for producing classical super-premium wines in New Zealand, and GRAD® 1 & 2 are among the absolute élite representatives of its modern clones.
  • Vines grafted with GRAD® 1 & 2 Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon are available in New Zealand through Stanmore Farm nursery under license from GRAD®.
  • E-mail for orders or inquires:
    Phone: 0800 Stanmore (0800 782 666)
  • Mobile: 027 544 0140
  • For more information about these clones, and for details regarding their use in, and suitability for, your vineyard, e-mail Dr. Gerald Atkinson at:
  • A comprehensive non-propagation contract must be signed off as part of your purchase order.
  • Download 1 page PDF Fact Sheet on GRAD Macarthur Clones 1 & 2 Cabernet Sauvignon




The GRAD® 1 and 2 Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon clones derive from the original Te Kauwhata Cabernet Sauvignon line which was imported by Romeo Bragato from South Australia in the 1890s and again in the 1900s. Bragato almost certainly obtained the material for these vines from the South Australian government nursery at Belair in south east Adelaide’s foothills. (This was done as a precaution against importation of phylloxera, as South Australia, unlike Victoria and New South Wales, did not have the pest, and indeed still does not have it over 125 years later.) In turn, all of South Australia’s Cabernet Sauvignon, until the 1980s, had just one source: vines imported from Bordeaux in 1837 by William Macarthur. Having seen that the major Bordeaux varieties in the 1833 Sydney-landed Busby vine collection were all bogus, Macarthur used his family’s business association with Bordeaux wine merchants and Chateaux owners Barton & Guestier, to arrange for importation of five genuine major Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, (Gros) Verdot, Semillon, and Sauvignon blanc. These arrived in Sydney per Didier Joubert aboard the Cora Nelly from Bordeaux on 26th May 1837. Barton and Guestier had interests in two top Bordeaux chateaux at this time — Chateau Latour (part-acquired in 1833) and Chateay Leoville (purchased 1822-26) — and the source of the Cabernet Sauvignon supplied to Macarthur was almost certainly Chateau Latour, although  Chateau Leoville (which was then still a single estate), could have been a secondary source. Cuttings from all of Macarthur’s Bordeaux imports (except the Semillon) were sold by him from 1842 onward through his Camden nursery in Sydney, and all of South Australia’s Cabernet Sauvignon plantings were made using the Macarthur genetic line (and local re-selections of it) until ca. 1980. (There was no other Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia, give or take the unconvincingly-provenanced Western Australian Jack Mann / Houghton line, until the 1980s.) Given its 1890-1900s South Australian provenance therefore, the old TK Cabernet Sauvignon line is undoubtedly derived from Macarthur’s Chateau Latour Cabernet Sauvignon, possibly with a lesser component from Chateau Leoville: Rolls Royce genetic material of the very finest provenance.

To this it must also be added that all of the Cabernet Sauvignon used to establish South Australia’s world-famous Coonawarra plantings from the 1950s through the 1970s were South Australian re-selections of the Macarthur Ch. Latour/ Leoville Cabernet. It is no surprise therefore that richness, finesse and elegance, combined with distinctive aromas of cedar wood, pencil shavings and redcurrant characterise this district’s classic wines, along with intense plush fine tannins and cedarwood, cassis and redcurrant flavours. This is the (Coonawarra-‘channelled’) genetically-driven legacy of this highly distinguished exceptional pre-phylloxera Cabernet Sauvignon line.

In New Zealand, the Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon established its stand-out quality credentials from very early on. It was consistently one of the most successful ‘experimental’ varieties Romeo Bragato worked with and vinified in the winery at the Waerenga (later Te Kauwhata) government research station. From there, based on plantings made ca. 1903, this genetic line also became a notable success at Bernard Chambers’ Te Mata vineyard. Indeed, there is little or no question that the so-called ‘Buck’ lines of old Te Mata Cabernet Sauvignon that came from the remnants of the Chambers vineyards were derived from this ex-Bragato, ex-Macarthur, Ch. Latour and / or Leoville line. It is important to note however that the so-called Buck Cabernet Sauvignon vines (from which material may have been circulating in Hawkes Bay in the 1980s) were reportedly all virused by the time John Buck and Michael Morris bought the old Chambers Te Mata property.

Virus also, over time, infected all the old Te Kauwhata Cabernet Sauvignon (and almost every other TK vine, of course). Nevertheless, there were no further Cabernet Sauvignon imports to New Zealand between 1903 and the late 1960s, so that when Frank Berrysmith imported U.C.D. 5 (a Mendoza, Argentina, clone that is wrongly recorded in N.Z. records as UCD1A) in 1968, and then John McLaren imported S.A.125 in 1970, these were the first new Cabernet Sauvignon accessions to New Zealand in over 60 years. However, U.C.D. ‘false-1A’ / 5 was only ever planted at Berrysmith’s Kumeu trial, whence it became virused and was never released. It has now been lost altogether. For its part, S.A.125 was illicitly circulated in the North Island but was nevertheless eventually abandoned due, no doubt, to the effects of its clonal infection with GVA, GLRaV9, and one other virus. Against this background, D.S.I.R. heat-treated the old TK Cabernet Sauvignon line in the late 1960s and around three explants appear to have been released ca. 1970-73, principally through Massey University. Additionally however, this D.S.I.R. heat-treated line was also privately bulked up by Wayne Thomas in glasshouses at Avondale in Auckland ca. 1971-5, first for Montana, and then for ‘Penfolds New Zealand’. This line of vines achieved a certain prominence at the time in these companies’ plantings (e.g., in Marlborough, for Montana) — but crown gall infection in them (from an Auckland source that may have pervaded, as best I can tell, at least one of the Thomas hot-houses or nursery plots) was a persistent underlying problem, and combined with the 1990s realisation that Cabernet Sauvignon (contra Jackson & Schuster!) was largely unsuitable for growing south of Hawkes Bay, it has passed into oblivion. Other (non-Montana non-‘Penfolds’) plantings of the material released ex- Massey University in the mid-1970s were relatively quite small (give or take some by Corbans), but so long as they remained free of virus re-infection they showed considerable promise (especially given this genetic line’s early-ripening disposition). Nevertheless, as time has gone by, virtually no un-virused / high-health exemplars of these D.S.I.R. explants remain — except in a very few old (late 1970s – early 1980s) isolated own-roots plantings in the South Island (and in which the quite separate problem of crown gall can be a serious issue). Where and when they were healthy (like the one pictured below), these vines distinctly show the lower cropping and early-ripening characteristics which distinguish this genetic line (and which, interestingly enough, remain to this day recognised also as definitive of their ‘sister’ old vine lines in e.g., the Seppelt’s Dorrien vineyard in South Australia.)

Cabernet Sauvignon DSIR heat-treated remnant vine (no longer extant).

Correspondingly, wines made from the fruit of the D.S.I.R. heat-treated ex-Massey Cabernet Sauvignon line closely followed the classical pattern of the original Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon imported by Bragato. Having tasted a few from the throughout the 1980s and a smattering from the 1990s, I am inclined to say that the best of them were somewhat Ch. Margaux and / or otherwise Saint-Julien -like: medium-bodied, very long, cedary, fine and subtle; much less jammy, hard, and muscular than the present — much later ripening — ‘heavy handed’ U.C.D. 7 and 8 clones which alas still dominate older Hawkes Bay plantings.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the double heat-treated, ex-D.S.I.R. and then ex-M.A.F. heat-treated line that I have regenerated and re-selected for the two GRAD® Macarthur clones, is a qualitative step up again from the original D.S.I.R. vines, but will nevertheless retain their forebears’ exceptionally high wine quality characteristics which appear to be deeply genetically ingrained in this classic old pre-phylloxera genetic line.

The two clones that make up the GRAD® 1 and 2 Cabernet Sauvignon derive, as already noted, from a re-heat-treated series of ex-M.A.F. explants that were made from remnants of the original D.S.I.R. heat-treated line, but the M.A.F. vines were never released to the N.Z. industry as far as I can determine. They were therefore entirely experimental vines, and this explains why I have only ever found a very few remnants of them in what remained of obscure old trial blocks. Those from which I have made my selections were all vines planted on their own roots; no possible undermining of their virus-freed status by grafting was involved therefore. In subsequently re-selecting from regenerated material from the original lines of these own-roots double heat-treated vines, I have however assiduously stuck with those whose characteristics are closely similar to those of the classic Macarthur – Bragato – D.S.I.R. line. The resulting GRAD® Clone 1 & 2 Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon are the best of the best available in New Zealand. They are also highly likely to be qualitatively superior to almost all of the post-1950s South Australian selections that have been so deeply involved in the expansion and heavy commercialisation / industrialisation of Coonawarra Cabernet production over the least forty years or so.


Health status

GRAD® 1 and 2 Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon have tested free of detectable virus by P.C.R. assay, and have also tested negative by E.L.I.S.A. for GLRaV1, 2, 3, and GVA. All of Stanmore Farm’s mothervines of these two clones have subsequently tested negative for GLRaV3 as part of the ongoing testing regime required by the New Zealand Grafted Grapevine Standard.



Te Kauwhata Cabernet Sauvignon, ex Chx. Lafite & Leoville, ex William Macarthur, ex Romeo Bragato
Te Kauwhata Cabernet Sauvignon, ex Ch. Latour & (possibly also) Leoville, ex William Macarthur, ex Romeo Bragato. (Photo by Dennis Kasza, from Frank Thorpy, Wine in New Zealand (Auckland: Collins, 1971), p. 56a (edited images).








While they are obviously Cabernet Sauvignon at a visual ampelographic level, the GRAD® 1 and 2 Macarthur clones have also been confirmed as Cabernet Sauvignon by D.N.A. testing at the Waite Institute in Adelaide. These clones’ vigour is moderate, and as noted, they follow their genetic lineage in ripening ten days or more before UCD 7 and 8 Cabernet Sauvignon, although their lower cropping and somewhat smaller bunches (with smaller, more intensely flavoured and higher tannin berries) are perhaps also a factor in this. (In North Canterbury, on a hillside site with a 1250 Degree day heat summation, I have had this genetic line at 22° Brix by April 7th in an average dry autumn, at a crop level of 4 tonnes / hectare. Total leaf-plucking of the fruit zone just after fruit-set was integral to this, but the wisdom of Cabernet leaf-plucking is in any case now well understood of course.) As noted already, wines of power and finesse are the Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon’s genetic line’s forté, with comparisons in wine characteristics to Chateau Margaux, and top Saint-Julien Cabernet-based wines, coming quickly to mind. Blending with well-ripened Merlot and Malbec adds extra weight to the Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon’s finesse, while ripe Carmenere (from, e.g., the GRAD® Carmenere clone) will add a further dimension of cassis aromas and flavour as well as further mid-palate intensity and flesh; Cabernet Franc, by comparison, may not add as much to wines made from the Macarthur line except for riper fruit characters if both varieties are picked together.

I’ve already noted the historic Chambers Te Mata vineyard and wines that connect this classic pre-phylloxera genetic line to this country’s first super-premium Cabernet Sauvignon wines, but it is of course also the one which Tom Macdonald used so successfully in the 1960s in Hawkes Bay. The key contemporary difference is of course that the two GRAD® clones are of proven outright high health and represent the pinnacle of the most intensive process of selection and re-selection which this genetic line has progressively been put through since the D.S.I.R. decided to heat-treat it ca. 1969, and then M.A.F. re-heat-treated some of the D.S.I.R. h.-t. line in the early 1980s. In a nutshell, this is to say that the two GRAD® clones offer this genetic line free of detectable virus — something which has not been available to N.Z. growers and winemakers for some time now.

As a final note on this genetic line’s characteristics, I would strongly recommend that the GRAD® Cabernet Sauvignon clones be cane pruned for best cropping performance. Like most old pre-phylloxera Pinot noir genetic lines (which I have been researching and working with in Victoria for several years now), I strongly suspect that these old Cabernet Sauvignon lines are do not perform best when spur pruned, especially as the vines age.


Qualitative potential

I believe this is the real stand-out point in what is offered by the two GRAD® Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon clones. Although there has been a good deal of selection work in South Australia for Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, the overwhelming emphasis there has been upon selection of higher-cropping clones — and indeed, often distinctly and indiscriminately so — compared to the original Macarthur genetic line. Wine quality at the very highest level has as a result frequently taken a distinct back seat, and even very major Coonawarra producers have happily endorsed the likes of the vine-health-disastrous SA125 clone (infected with GVA and two other viruses) for this reason. When I was a wine writer in Australia in the early 1990s, I provocatively — but nevertheless accurately — described Coonawarra as a South Australian ‘wine well’, focussed overwhelmingly on high production, and far too infrequently on true high quality; it was churning out huge volumes of wine while trading on its former (1950s – 1970s) reputation for exceptional quality. The facts supported me in this, especially when minimal pruning and huge planting expansion had swept the region as the 1980s progressed and the 1990s continued. These developments went hand-in-hand with increasing utilisation of lower-quality higher-cropping clones, and Cabernet Sauvignon in Coonawarra was a glaring case in point. Here in New Zealand, in Hawkes Bay and on Waiheke Island, we have the option of deliberately eschewing this model and instead opting to follow in the wake of the top Bordeaux Chateaux and their emulators in the Napa Valley and in Italy’s Bolgheri: focussing upon producing very high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon wines that sell for the highest of prices.

To do this we must use considerably better material than the high-cropping lines that still dominate many of the plantings in both our leading Cabernet-producing regions. But in addition, we need to face the fact that the in-vogue ‘official’ French clones also now in wide use derive, irrespective of their individual characteristics, from a very decimated post-phylloxera (high-production-selected) gene pool that overwhelmingly stands to this day as quite unable to match the exceptional genetic lineages and definitive quality of the old pre-phylloxera Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon lines. At best these new French clones are still struggling to recover ground against the standards set by the classic super-premium Chateau lines that phylloxera so severely reduced. Fortunately, in South Australia, of course, this demise did not take place, and at least some of these genetic lines, in the form of the Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon, survived and continue on both in Australia and, thanks to Romeo Bragato, in New Zealand. To this it must bluntly be added that if one looks at where the current ‘official’ French clones come from, what is very notably lacking is provenance like Ch. Latour or Ch. Leoville; they have nothing like that to offer. By stark comparison, the two GRAD® Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon clones are arguably the crème de la crème exemplars of the old, now principally South Australian -based, original super-premium pre-phylloxera Cabernet lines. The choice for those wishing to utilise the finest genetic lineage is clear-cut therefore.


Ripening period

Both GRAD®  Macarthur Cabernet Sauvignon clones are early ripening: 10 days or more ahead of the U.C.D. 7 and 8 clones, for example, when carrying comparable crops.



Vines grafted with GRAD® are available through Stanmore Farm nursery under exclusive license from GRAD®.

Stanmore Farm has a number of established mothervines of GRAD®  Macarthur cabernet sauvignon clones 1 & 2, and quantities of budwood available for grafting continue to increase each season. To obtain details of currently available material and for forward grafting orders, contact Stanmore Farm nursery.

E-mail for orders or inquires:
Phone: 0800 Stanmore (0800 782 666)  
Mobile: 027 544 0140

Please note that a strict and comprehensive non-propagation contract must be signed off as part of your purchase order.

GRAD® is a New Zealand registered trademark uniquely and exclusively used to identify the vines in the GRAD® vine collection. Use by unauthorised parties to identify any vine material, or other use for commercial gain, is an infringement of this trademark.


Genetic ‘fingerprinting’ and clonal traceability

Vine pirates BEWARE! It is now possible to genetically fingerprint, uniquely identify, and individually detect grapevine clones using the latest-developed molecular genetic sequencing techniques. See the breakthrough research paper by Michael J. Roach et al, “Population Sequencing Reveals Clonal Diversity and Ancestral Inbreeding in the Grapevine Cultivar Chardonnay”, published November 20, 2018 at

Questions about this wine grape? Contact us.

Author: Dr. Gerald Atkinson

Company director, viticulturist, grapevine researcher and historian, and sometime wine-writer.