GRAD® ‘TK Hermitage’ Syrah Clones 1 – 9

The GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 9 now offer the New Zealand industry the opportunity to take this classic genetic line’s potential to an even higher level of wine quality by using its finest regenerated, reselected, and redeveloped clonal lines.

GRAD® ‘TK Hermitage’ Syrah Clones 1 – 9 in brief:

  • The finest Syrah genetic line in New Zealand — ‘TK Hermitage’ — extensively re-selected and regenerated.
  • Nine all-new high health clonal lines
  • All 9 GRAD® Syrah clones derive from material which clearly traces to pre-phylloxera vines from the Hill of Hermitage. Their ‘TK Hermitage’ source vines were imported from South Australia by Romeo Bragato, and in turn, this ‘Hermitage’ line was introduced to Australia (along with a separate, tight-bunched, Syrah) in 1833 by James Busby. Both are clearly documented by Busby as originating from Hermitage.
  • A number of the GRAD® clones (1 and 2 in particular, which have been multiple-PCR-tested) are free of detectable virus by PCR test, with the balance only positive for a benign strain of the virus RSPaV. All first and second -generation mothervines (now at Stanmore Farm nursery) which were made from the foundation clones have proven free of GLRaV1, GLRaV2, GLRaV3, and GVA by multiple E.L.I.S.A. tests.
  • The ‘TK Hermitage’ genetic line is widely renown as the best currently in New Zealand, with many top producers openly acknowledging its superiority to all and any of the ‘official’ French clones. Currently, the GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 9 are, in turn, the only intensively re-selected and regenerated clonal series developed from the ‘TK Hermitage’ line.
  • All of the GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 9 are loose-bunched (for lower bunch rot incidence) and are also early ripening (for good adaptation to sites from Hawkes Bay to North Canterbury).
  • Absence of virus and off-types, plus intensive selection for highest potential vine quality, means the GRAD® Syrah clones can confidently be expected to produce wines that are a qualitative step up from the already excellent standard typically set by ‘Hermitage m/s’ plantings.
  • Vines grafted with GRAD® 1 – 9  ‘TK Heritage’ Syrah 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)
  • E-mail for orders or inquires:
    Mobile: 027 544 0140
  • For further details and advice on utilisation and suitability for your vineyard, contact 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 – 9 Syrah Clones


Typical GRAD® Syrah clone loose-bunch morphology



Over the last 17 years I have examined, virus tested, and trialled a considerable range of Syrah material, all obtained from vines planted in New Zealand before 1990. In some cases I was able to locate ungrafted vines which were as much as 40 years old, and in others (for example, the so-called ‘Limmer clones’) I was lucky enough to access original first generation material. Other vines included shadowy imports from Australia and possibly also France. By far the most, however, were descended from what is widely known as ‘Te Kauwhata (or simply ‘TK’) Hermitage’. As it has turned out, all nine of the GRAD® Syrah clones that have been created through my selective regeneration and nursery development process are derived solely from this distinctive genetic line. This ultimately reflects the fact that no other Syrah line currently in New Zealand rivals the quality and potential of the ‘TK Hermitage’ gene pool.

Popular accounts of the source of the old Te Kauwhata ‘Hermitage’ Syrah ascribe it to James Busby’s 1830s vineyard at his residence in the Bay of Islands. But this is not correct, for while Busby may have planted either, or both, the ‘Hermitage’ and / or the ‘Scyras’ from his vine collection here, nothing from his vineyard survived long enough to have any involvement in 20th Century New Zealand viticulture (or even late 19th century). Instead, it was Romeo Bragato who, in the late 1890s, as the newly appointed Government Viticulturist, imported ‘Hermitage’ from the state government Belair nursery in South Australia and established it at the government agricultural research station at Waerenga — subsequently renamed ‘Te Kauwhata’. Bragato thereafter proved that this ‘Hermitage’ not only grew well here, but also that it made outstanding wine.

This should be no surprise really, as these vines are in fact impeccably traceable back to the hill of Hermitage itself and thus came from very high-quality pre-phylloxera vine stock. They came to Australia as two separate accessions in the Busby vine collection which was imported to New South Wales in early 1832. The vines at the South Australian government nursery at Belair almost certainly were second or third generation South Australian selections from ex-Busby-collection material that came from William Macarthur’s Camden nursery outside Sydney. This Camden material was sent to South Australia between 1843 and 1850. It was Macarthur, not Busby, who widely promoted the merits of the two Busby collection Syrah accessions and provided the foundation stock for plantings that today still exist in old vineyards in Victoria and South Australia (and parts of New South Wales). Most interestingly, of the two Busby Syrah accessions, it is the loose-bunched line that was (and in leading vineyards remains) favoured in Victoria — for its early ripening and the finesse of its wines — while over time the higher-bunch-weight, later-ripening, tight-bunched line became increasingly favoured in South Australia, especially as the 20th century progressed. Luckily, the loose-bunched line was well represented in the ca. 1885-1890 Belair nursery selections, and it probably composed the majority, if not the totality, of the cuttings Bragato imported and planted at Waerrenga / Te Kauwhata.

To the very great good fortune of the New Zealand wine industry, and despite the variety being overwhelmingly ignored for seventy years after its outstanding experimental winemaking successes for Bragato,  ‘Hermitage’ vines survived into the late 1960s at Te Kauwhata. A key moment in their history in this country came when, in 1967-8, material selected from two of the old TK ‘Hermitage’ vines was heat-treated by D.S.I.R. as part of its extensive late 1960s- early 1970s virus elimination and vine improvement program. It is documented that around 15 virus-eliminated ‘Hermitage explant lines were successfully made as a result. During the 1970s a few of them were trialled with other vines in a wide range of sites in the North and South Islands, but this engendered virtually no industry interest or uptake. Thereafter, in the 1980s the D.S.I.R  ‘Hermitage’ explants’ identities became increasingly confused and ill-recorded while the vines were also re-catalogued several times and nominally re-released. Industry uptake remained the same however: nil. This overwhelming disinterest continued until Alan Limmer recovered some of these ex-D.S.I.R. vines from Te Kauwhata, and after he bulked them up at his pioneering Stonecroft vineyard in Hawkes Bay’s Gimblett Gravels, they were subsequently circulated as ‘Hermitage mass selection’ or ‘Limmer clones’. Unfortunately, indiscriminate grafting and inadequate virus testing soon saw far too many second-rate, virus-infected, vines being distributed from these sources. In recent times, commendable efforts have been made by one or two nurseries to eliminate these inferior and virused lines, but none have been as thorough, and nor have they been based on such extensive regeneration and re-selection work, as that which has produced the GRAD® ‘TK Hermitage’ Syrah clones 1 – 9.


Health status

The GRAD® 1 -9 Syrah clones largely come from PCR tested sources, the majority of which proved to be free of detectable virus, with the balance tested positive only for the benign strain of RSPaV. Subsequently, all the GRAD Syrah clones have been tested by E.L.I.S.A., and found negative, for GLRaV1, GLRaV2, GLRaV3 and GVA. All mothervines at Stanmore Farm have subsequently re-tested negative for GLRaV3 in accordance with N.Z. Grafted Grapevine Standard protocols.

In the course of developing the GRAD® 1 -9 Syrah clones, it became evident to me that many sources of the so-called ‘Limmer clones’ and / or ‘Hermitage mass selection’ were infected with GVA and GVFkV. The former is readily spread by mealy bugs, and the latter almost certainly results from mothervines in Hawkes Bay and Auckland  being grafted onto Fleck-infected rootstock (e.g., the old Te Kauwhata line of Schwarzmann, the widespread Gm line of C. 3309, or C. 1616 infected with an aggressive Fleck strain). What particularly alarmed me was clear evidence that almost as soon as Alan Limmer had supplied clean 1st-generation material to Hawkes Bay and Auckland nurseries and growers, these infections were proving highly evident, and thus alarmingly common, in so-called ‘mass selection’ Syrah plantings between 2000 and 2010. (Although in time, various leaf-roll viruses also, regrettably, became present in an increasing number of plantings.) Other infected lines of Syrah, including several with very shadowy provenance (of which one is pictured left here) were also freely circulating in Hawkes Bay in particlular, having simply never been adequately virus-tested before propagation and wider distribution. To their credit, several nurseries have made serious efforts to eliminate all these inferior, degraded, lines from their mothervine and grafting stock sources. However, GRAD® had been deliberately and programmatically doing this, using P.C.R. and intensive E.L.I.S.A. virus testing, since 2002-3 when it began studying and developing its own all new next-generation Syrah clonal lines. Several of these, at 1 year old regenerated explant stage in the GRAD® nursery are pictured to the left here. The GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 9 each constitute unique genetic sub-lines produced from different individual source vines, all of which, as it turned out, were traceable to D.S.I.R. heat-treated lines of the ‘TK Hermitage’ Syrah. Their source vines came from a surprising (and often obscure) range of New Zealand sites, many of them experimental. This however reflected the unusual extent to which the D.S.I.R. ‘Hermitage’ became experimentally spread around the country in the 1970s and 1980s on a trial basis, notwithstanding general industry disinterest in Syrah at the time — other than on the part, principally, of Alan Limmer. Indeed, had it not been for the egregious and early success of the Stonecroft Syrahs, it is quite possible that the variety would have remained in obscurity and neglect even now, and the ex-D.S.I.R. heat-treated lines lost and / or destroyed altogether.



The GRAD® 1 -9 Syrah clones are all loose-bunched, with bunch weights on vines planted at 5,000 / ha averaging 70 – 80 grams on balanced vines, although wider-spacings will produce heavier bunches (but it will also be much more difficult to restrict berry size to maximise potential wine dry extract from their fruit). GRAD® 1 is the oldest clone, being derived from an old vine selection I made in the early-2000s, after which several stages of re-selection followed before the clone’s foundation vine was created. It is a relatively early ripener, like the rest of the clone 1 – 9 series. GRAD® 2 is the next oldest clone, with clones 3 – 6 following, while clones 7 – 9 are the result of lengthy and multiple green shoot re-propagations and regenerations and their nursery mothervines are still undergoing bulking up at Stanmore Farm nursery. Initial evidence from several years observation in a North Canterbury planting of clones 1 – 7 is that GRAD® 6 may be slightly earlier than the balance of these first 7 clones, although last season GRAD® 7 also showed signs of being relatively precocious. Mono-clonal wine made from GRAD® 1 some years ago was well received (in a blind tasting) by one of N.Z.’s M.W.s, and this clone shows carnation, cedar and spice overtones to red rose and dark red cherry fruit with fine tannins and a good deal of Cotes Rôtie -like refinement.

A planting of GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 6 has been under observation for over 5 years now in the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay (on both GRAD® 44.53 and GRAD® 106-8 rootstock) and it is hoped that in due course mono-clonal wines will be produced using this source. Mono-clonal wines may also be made in due course from clones 1 and 2 in particular in the North Canterbury block which GRAD® has been observing for several years now.






GRAD® Syrah mothervines being grown on at the GRAD® r&d nursery in Christchurch.



Qualitative potential

Many high quality Syrah wines have been made in New Zealand from ‘TK Hermitage mass selection’ or ‘Limmer clone’ fruit, and the reason for this fundamentally lies in the fact that this is an exceptionally high quality genetic line with impeccable provenance. Its track record in Australia is of course world renown, and in old (and selectively planted new) vineyards in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and increasingly N.Z. vineyards, it continues to show its truly exceptional class. In my opinion, this genetic line more often than not excels when its fruit is not picked surmature (23° Brix is quite sufficient if your canopy management is good enough) and a classic Cotes Rôtie wine style can readily be emulated especially by extensive use of whole cluster fermentation but (rather importantly in my experience) with traditional foot-treading to break up the berries. Wines of perfume, elegance, refinement and underlying power — rather than brute strength — showcase this genetic line at its very finest. The GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 9 now offer the New Zealand industry the opportunity to take this classic genetic line’s potential to an even higher level of wine quality by using its finest regenerated, reselected, and redeveloped clonal lines.


Ripening period

This is early by typical Syrah standards, and up to 3 weeks earlier than clones like Chave. The GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 9 are thus highly suitable to cool-climate conditions, especially where (e.g. in South Island vineyards) narrow canopies and thorough fruit-zone leaf-plucking (from early fruit development onward) is used.



GRAD® Syrah clones 1 – 6 are available in moderate, and seasonally increasing, numbers from GRAD’s licensed nursery, Stanmore Farm. Clones 7 – 9 are more recent introductions to the GRAD® catalogue (having been produced using repeated-generation green shoot tip culture and multiple re-selection) and are still undergoing bulking up of mothervines at Stanmore Farm. For current season and forward orders, contact Stanmore Farm for  details regarding grafting quantities available.

Vines grafted with GRAD® 1 – 9 Syrah are available through Stanmore Farm nursery under license from GRAD®

  • Website:
  • E-mail for orders or inquires:
  • Phone: 0800 Stanmore (0800 782 666)
  • Mobile: 027 544 0140
  • For further details and advice on utilisation and suitability for your vineyard, contact Dr. Gerald Atkinson at
  • A comprehensive non-propagation contract must be signed off as part of your purchase order.

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


Questions about this wine grape? Contact us.

Author: Dr. Gerald Atkinson

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