Frenchmans Hill Estate

“A lovely rich and supple red…”
– Michael Cooper on the 2013 Blood Creek 8, rated 5 stars

Our Story


Frenchmans Hill Estate is ideally positioned on the steep northern slopes at the base of the Te Whau Peninsula on iconic Waiheke Island. The soil is impoverished pink clay which is gravelly, sandy and free-draining. The earth is described as quartz kaolinate over greywacke sub-rock which is mineral rich. As the french say “plus pauve le sol, plus grand le vin”.

In 1821, wanting to avenge previous defeats by Tāmaki tribes, the Ngāpuhi leader Hongi Hika launched an attack on Waiheke. With 2,000 men and 1,000 muskets he stormed two Ngāti Paoa pa (fortified settlements) adjacent to Frenchmans Hill Estate. According to legend the battle turned the waters red, hence our famous Blood Creek 8, symbolising the bloodshed.

The area is a perfect combination of maritime climate, pedigree wine selections, coastal soil and people to create some of New Zealand’s most profound wines. It is very similar climatically to the Medoc Region of France.

Winegrower Luc Desbonnets has over 30 years global experience in wine growing and wine making since his debut in France in 1989. After completing a business degree, Luc travelled to France to learn his fathers culture and completed another degree in winemaking and viticulture in the Medoc appellation area of Bordeaux.

Leaving Bordeaux seven years later, Luc furthered his craft by managing large Eastern European productions in Hungary and Moldova for a further three years.

In developing Frenchmans Hill Estate, Luc steadfastly sticks to the techniques and protocols learnt whilst working in the ‘grand cru’ appellations of Bordeaux and Burgundy. He believes with the right sites and an uncompromising approach toward yields, vine and soil management, New Zealand matches it with many of the world’s greatest wines.

The impoverished sandy/gravelly clays of Waiheke are ideal viticultural soils for the expression of truly cellar-worthy ‘complex’ reds that will evolve favourably over time. All Frenchmans Hill Estate wines are grown and made by Luc from vineyards that he established in 2006. Perfectly matching grape varieties to various micro sites to achieve what he describes as “unique earth expressions”.

With the principle of “heat builds structure and light builds colour”, Luc was strongly drawn to the to this uniquely well suited site which he purchased in 2005 to realise his dream of creating an iconic New Zealand wine.



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