GRAD® Clone 1 & 2 Kasza Chardonnay

This exceptionally fine Chardonnay genetic line is a regenerated high health version of the old Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ used by Dennis Kasza to make the legendary McWilliams 1960s Chardonnays. It is distinguished by its combining finesse with good depth of richness and flavour. It is hugely superior to Mendoza, and U.C.D. 4, 5, or 6, and also shows more classical (Meursault-like) intensity to its fruit character than many of the recent French clones where understatement and elegance rather than depth and richness seem to have been favoured.

GRAD® Clone 1 & 2 Kasza Chardonnay in brief:

  • Two entirely new entirely new high-health, D.N.A.-identified, fully regenerated clones derived from the old ex- Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ genetic line that Dennis Kasza used to make the legendary McWilliams Hawkes Bay Chardonnays of the 1960s.
  •  Consistently tested either free of detectable virus by PCR test, or otherwise weakly positive for a benign strain of the virus RSPaV. All first and second -generation mothervines (now at Stanmore Farm nursery) made from the foundation clones have proven free of GLRaV3  by multiple E.L.I.S.A. tests.
  • Classic old Burgundian Chardonnay genetic line (obtained by the famous Salomon nursery in France, almost certainly originating from a very high quality Burgundy source, ca. 1890).
  • In New Zealand, this genetic line has a track record, since the 1950s, for giving wines with a rich (arguably Meursault-like) aroma and flavour profile when grown with appropriate canopy management.
  • Unoaked wines show fine aromatics — gentle lemon curd with peachy quinine undertones. The is also noticeably better acid balance than Mendoza clone Chardonnay (i.e., lower malic acid and more balanced tartaric). On the palate, unoaked wines made from the two GRAD® Kasza clones show Himalayan pink salt and quinine notes mingled with white peach, lemon meringue and lemon curd characters, with a palate showing good length, weight, and balance.
  • Barrel fermentation of the GRAD® Kasza clones followed by lees maturation should give wines with Meursault-like characters and good fruit – acid balance (provided over-ripeness is avoided).
  • Vines grafted with GRAD® 1 & 2 Kasza Chardonnay 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 1 & 2 Kasza Chardonnay Clones



In 1929 a range of grape varieties were imported to New Zealand from the famed Salomon nursery at Thomery in north-central France. The vines were planted at the Government Viticultural Research Station at Te Kauwhata, and included among them was a line of Chardonnay under the (old fashioned Burgundian) name ‘Pinot Chardonnay’*.  More than thirty years of being ignored by New Zealand winemakers then followed, until this vine-stock achieved an unexpected and unprecedented rise to fame when Dennis Kasza used it to make the legendary McWilliams Hawkes Bay Chardonnays of the 1960s. In fact however, Kasza’s knew these vines well from his time as Research Viticulturist at Te Kauwhata between 1951 and 1957. As Keith Stewart has noted, Dennis Kasza “identified ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ as the standout variety at Te Kauwhata, producing very good wines”**.  At the time however, this attracted no significant industry interest; in the 1950s N.Z. grapegrowers and wine producers were interested almost only in hybrid grapes, not Vitis vinifera varieties.  Kasza did not give up however, and he propagated this Chardonnay line at McWilliams after he left Te Kauwhata to work with Tom Macdonald in 1957. However, although the McWilliams 1960s Chardonnays gained considerable fame among nascent New Zealand fine wine producers and connoisseurs of the 1970s, they were wines which were very much ahead of their time in terms of finding commercial acceptance. By the 1980s, when the McWilliams brand had disappeared and other producers had availed themselves of the same ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ line (or what was sold to them as ‘the same’) and / or, in a few cases, the 1970’s-released D.S.I.R. heat-treated version of it, virus infection (with GLRaV1 and 3) was spreading exponentially in virtually all of its plantings. A significant part of what exacerbated this was the importation and apparent illicit release, in the later 1970s, of a GLRaV1-infected new clone — Mendoza (a second-hand U.C.D. clone imported from Australia). Despite its hen-and-chicken bunches, this virused clone gained considerable winemaker acceptance because of its higher, albeit very malic-dominated, acidity at elevated sugar-ripeness, particularly in Auckland and Gisborne vineyards. By the 1990s, Mendoza Chardonnay was absolutely (and cultishly) pre-eminent in New Zealand, and it was in any case virtually impossible to obtain a high health line of the ex-Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’. So-called ‘McWilliams Chardonnay’ clones were nevertheless in circulation in Hawkes Bay in particular, but because leaf-roll virus infections in Chardonnay almost inevitably cause hen-and-chickens fruit set, these putative ‘McWilliams selections’ and the authentic ‘Pinot Chardonnay’, complete with GRLaV1 and 3 infection, became widely confused with, and very widely re-sold as, ‘Mendoza’  Chardonnay. That after all was what virtually every grower and winemaker had somehow convinced themselves was the clone to grow. The release, in the 1980s, of a M.A.F. heat-treated Mendoza clonal line further complicated the picture: it set proper-sized berries, but its fruit was prone to Chardonnay-atypical tropical-fruit characters, and it was clonally infected with the pseudo- leaf roll virus GLRaV2. Additionally, three heavy-cropping ‘industrial grade’ U.C.D. Chardonnay clones (4, 5, 6) also were introduced and widely planted in the later 1980s. Consequently, as clean lines of the ex-Salomon Te Kauwhata  ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ faded almost into utter oblivion, a roar of industry propaganda was used to promote the tidal wave of over-oaked and over-worked indifferent wines made from the significantly inferior Mendoza and U.C.D. clones. The introduction of barrel-fermentation techniques in New Zealand white winemaking only made matters worse, too: a whole generation of N.Z. wine drinkers grew up on over-oaked and over-ripe Mendoza and UCD Chardonnays.

In the early 2000s, I began researching the history of the ex-Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ from its introduction to the Salomon nursery through to its importation to New Zealand and onward. In my opinion it clearly originated from a very fine Burgundian vineyard source (ca. 1890 – 1900). Dennis Kasza had undoubtedly recognised this inherent high quality potential at Te Kauwhata and then confirmed it with the wines he made using it both at Te Kauwhata and especially of course at McWilliams. But, rather depressingly, I also found that by the 1990s – 2000s, high-health (or even just clearly genuine) vines of this old ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ had become almost impossible to find in any New Zealand commercial vineyards. My research did however uncover the fact that ca. 1970 the Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ was heat-treated by D.S.I.R., and that in the early 1980s it was even experimentally re-heat-treated by M.A.F.  I subsequently spent quite a few years trying to track down any remnant high health vines from these D.S.I.R. and / or M.A.F. virus-elimination programs in isolated old trial blocks and the like. Ironically, I eventually found three ex-Massey D.S.I.R. heat-treated ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ in an older Waipara vineyard and very luckily managed to recover material from the best of these vines on the very day that they were all pulled out and thrown on a huge bonfire. Later, in an altogether different site, I also found  an extremely rare high health remnant of the double heat-treated M.A.F. experimental line.

Both these recovered Chardonnays were extensively regenerated, as pictured left, and below, in the GRAD nursery at Christchurch over several years before clonal selection was made from the single best vine in each of the two regenerated lines. The results are GRAD® 1 and GRAD® 2 Kasza Chardonnay.






















GRAD® 1 and GRAD®
Kasza Chardonnay explants at the GRAD
R&D nursery, Christchurch.


Health status

GRAD® 1 and 2 Kasza Chardonnay have consistently tested either free of detectable virus by PCR test, or otherwise weakly positive for a benign strain of the virus RSPaV.  All first and second -generation mothervines (now at Stanmore Farm nursery) made from the foundation clones have proven free of GLRaV3 by multiple E.L.I.S.A. tests.



GRAD® 1 and 2 are classical high quality Burgundian Chardonnay clones: early-ripening, medium-small bunched, with balanced (not excessively malic) acidity. Vines show typical Chardonnay vigour and are easy to establish and maintain. Their fruit gives wines with fine raw and roasted hazelnut, blanched and lightly-toasted almond, and buttermilk aromas and flavours with white peach undertones. I have also found that with these clones, thoroughly leaf-plucked canopies (based on 100% fruit-zone leaf removal shortly after fruit set) give distinctly richer aromas and flavours, and superior acid balance with earlier physiological ripeness at 21-22 Brix. This was a key viticultural measure which I used between 2000 and 2005 to massively improve the quality of fruit from old — and significantly virused — vines of this generic line at Mountford in Waipara. (Under my all-new canopy management regime these produced very exciting Meursault-like wines but thanks to disappointing winemaking policies, were always, alas, made from very over-ripe fruit and were blended away with inferior, heavily malo-lactic-converted, Mendoza Chardonnay.) I continue to hold very much to the view that provided the leaf removal is correctly timed it is a significant quality-enhancing factor for cool climate Chardonnay in New Zealand, and I strongly recommend it for both these GRAD® Chardonnay clones. (Those who find their Chardonnay, including the GRAD® 1 and 2 Kasza clones, gives ‘neutral dry white’, need, I suggest, to look closely at their canopy management and adopt immediate post-flowering leaf-plucking of the fruiting zone: their ripe fruit should be burnished golden, not pale yellow-green.)

Dennis Kasza’s photographs of the Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’, from Frank Thorpy, Wine in New Zealand (Auckland: Colins Bros. & Co. Ltd., 1971), p.56b (illustration no.17). — The GRAD® Kasza1 and 2  Chardonnay clones are very similar in bunch morphology and vine appearance.


Qualitative potential

I encountered the genuine line of old Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ (which I was told was indeed “the Chardonnay used to make Tom Macdonald’s McWilliams Chardonnays”) when managing the Mountford vineyard at Waipara between 2000 and 2005. It was planted in a block opposite Mendoza Chardonnay (which came from a very different source). Both lots of vines were 100% infected with GLRaV1 (and some vines likely also with GLRaV3), but (aside from both cropping at between only 1 and 2 tonnes to the hectare) they made very different wines despite identical winemaking. The ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ vines (which, fortunately, dominated the cuvée) produced very rich, Meursault-like wines, while the genuine Mendoza clone’s wines were utterly reliant upon full malo-lactic conversion to gain any depth of qualitatively-worthy flavour. I immediately could see why Dennis Kasza’s ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ wines made at Te Kauwhata and then McWilliams, were so good: the old Te Kauwhata ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ is clearly an exceptionally fine Chardonnay genetic line, one distinguished by its natural depth of true white-Burgundian richness and flavour.

Based on my experience with this genetic line in North Canterbury vineyards, rich Meursault-like characters should be produced by the GRAD® Kasza Chardonnay clones if they are given quality barrel fermentation (with limited new oak) and lees maturation. I have also found that more recently introduced clones from both U.C.D. and France almost all show understated aromatic and flavour intensity (although the U.C.D. clones give much more clumsy wines as a general rule). While the new French clones in particular are certainly a step up in quality, most of them give wines that are fundamentally elegant but restrained — a breath of fresh air after the drawbacks of Mendoza and the clumsiness of U.C.D. 4, 5, and 6, to be sure — but they nevertheless often require intensive cellar-work to build them into grand vins, for it does not inherently come from their fruit as it should in really fine, classical Burgundian, Chardonnay clones. (Cool-climate Australian producers have increasingly begun to notice this with exactly the same French clones.) GRAD® deliberately sought to regenerate and re-release the Kasza ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ line as a clear alternative, if not indeed as an antidote, to this because of the clear evidence that it possesses higher aromatic and flavour richness than most recent Chardonnay clones.

In 2014, a trial planting of own-roots vines of both the GRAD® 1 and 2 Kasza Chardonnay clones was established in a hillside vineyard in the upper South Island. This is a fairly warm (although at times rather wet) site, with dolomite-rich soil which gives very marked Burgundian character to Chardonnay, and in general strongly emphasises minerality in white varieties. The GRAD® Kasza clones’ fruit was picked together and co-fermented to produce a highly impressive unoaked first crop wine from the 2018 vintage. Compared with Mendoza clone Chardonnay that has been produced on the same site and soil, I found the Kasza clone wine showed much finer and more classical aromatics — gentle lemon curd, with quinine undertones — and had noticeably better acid balance, showing lower malic and more balanced tartaric than Mendoza. Allowing for the absence of barrel-fermentation complexity, the Kasza clone wine resembled a young, beautifully pure, classic White Burgundy, or indeed, a fine very young Chablis from a very good warm vintage. Quinine and Himalayan pink salt notes mingled with lemon meringue and lemon curd characters on the palate which had good length and balance. The class of this old ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ genetic line was highly evident, no doubt just as Dennis Kasza had noted, around 65 years previously, when he first made trial wines from it at Te Kauwhata.


Ripening period

Both GRAD® 1 and 2 Kasza Chardonnay appear to ripen slightly early.



GRAD® Kasza Chardonnay clones 1 and 2 are available in moderate, and seasonally increasing, numbers from GRAD’s licensed nursery, Stanmore Farm. In recent seasons, further material from both clones has been next-generation propagated, and in 2019 GRAD® supplied still more G1 material of Kasza 1 and 2 to Stanmore Farm for mothervine production. It is expected therefore that bud numbers for grafting will increase exponentially over the next few seasons. For current season and forward orders, contact Stanmore Farm for details regarding grafting quantities available.

Vines grafted with GRAD® 1 and 2 Kasza Chardonnay are available 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:

Forward grafting orders may be placed now for supply subject to budwood availability. Quantities available will increase significantly as bulking up of mother vines continues.

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 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


  • * Up until the post-phylloxera reconstruction of France’s vineyards, the names ‘Pinot blanc’, ‘Pinot blanc de Chardonnay’, ‘Pinot Chardonnay’, and Chardonnay’ were effectively synonyms, because Pinot blanc and Chardonnay were very widely confused in the vineyards of Burgundy and elsewhere. Moreover, a good many of the finest pre-phylloxera white Burgundies were made from either Pinot blanc or, more commonly, a mixture of Pinot blanc and Chardonnay (often with a little Pinot gris and Aligote, and sometimes with small amounts of Melon and Auxerrois as well). ‘Pinot Chardonnay’ was also once common in top quality pre-phylloxera red Burgundies, e.g., Clos Veugeuot prior to 1800 was up to one tenth ‘Pinot Chardonnay’, and then from 1800 to ca. 1830 it was one twentieth; the balance always being Pinot noir (give or take a little Pinot gris).
  • ** Keith Stewart, Chancers and Visionaries: A History of Wine in New Zealand (Auckland: Godwit / Random House, 2010).

Questions about this wine grape? Contact us.

Author: Dr. Gerald Atkinson

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