New Zealand’s second largest wine region, sunny Hawke’s Bay has been an abundant source of fine wine since 1851; it’s well-established wine tourism trail also showcases the region’s art deco architecture (mainly in Napier city) and artisan producers.
- Hawke’s Bay’s benign climate and high sunshine have long-established the region as ideal for fruit-growing. Vines were first planted in 1851 by Marist missionaries (their legacy is Taradale’s historic Mission Winery) and Hawke’s Bay enjoys a significant international reputation for producing some of the country’s best wines, red and white.
A relatively large and diverse region capable of producing a wide range of varieties to a very high standard, Hawke’s Bay is best known for its Merlot Cabernet blends and Syrah, and equally impressive Chardonnay, however aromatic whites are consistently good and plantings of Pinot Noir at cooler sites are showing great results. The climate and lengthy growing season also allows regular production of successful dessert styles. New varieties are continually trialled.
- The numerous wineries and vineyards encompass both large multi-regional entities and tiny family-owned boutique producers; all share a commitment to making great wine.
- With its lengthy history and verdant, productive landscape, Hawke’s Bay is home to an outstanding wine tourism culture and offers a wide variety of cellar door experiences as well as regular food and wine festivals.
SOURCE: New Zealand Winegrower's Vineyard Register Report & Annual Report
Plantings and Styles (2014)
Pinot Gris 439ha
Aromatic, spicy, bold ripe wines with balanced acidity and good body, retaining excellent varietal character and freshness.
An exciting variety showing great distinction, gaining strength as sites and clones are refined. Wines are perfumed, elegant with ripe fruit, supple tannins and lingering spice.
Flagship white variety with excellent fruit intensity and complexity. Wines are full-bodied, lengthy, almost opulent but with finely-tuned acidity balancing the richness.
Red Blends 1,424ha
Merlot - 1,080ha, Malbec - 95ha, Cabernet Sauvignon - 249ha
Bordeaux blends are highly successful, producing wines of great power, elegance and longevity. Merlot is increasingly the higher percentage in blends, offering rich, plummy depths.
Sauvignon Blanc 937ha
Rich, tree fruit-laden wines, underpinned by bright acidity, they often seen a degree of oak fermentation or maturation, adding complexity and body.
Early plantings in Hawke's Bay were primarily for sparkling base production and were on heavier soils. More recent plantings in the last 20 years utilise clones more suited to the production of premium still Pinot Noir and sit inland at cooler, higher altitude sites. Varietal aromatics of cherry, berry fruits, plum, florals and spice, through to more savoury and earthy examples, all with beautifully soft and supple tannins and great richness of flavour.
Excellent examples abound of other aromatic whites such as Viognier, Malbec, Tempranillo and experimental plantings of Italian and Spanish varieties suggesting Hawke’s Bay offers many future stand-outs.
1 Coastal Areas
Enjoying a more pronounced maritime influence in addition to the region’s general long growing season, the gravely coastal vineyards of Bay View to the north and Te Awanga to the south are famed for early-ripening reds, crisp Sauvignon Blanc and premium Chardonnay. The cooling sea-breezes add elegance and freshness; cellar door settings are picturesque.
Increasingly explored for the differences offered in soil and altitude, hillsides also assist with frost-protection for more inland sites; they are predominately planted in red varieties. Long-established around Havelock North, hillsides in the Maraekakaho and Bay View sub-regions produce stellar wines and as vines march inland, the central Hawke’s Bay limestone hills are yielding promising aromatics and Pinot Noir.
3 Alluvial Plains
Established early and now widely-planted, the plains vary as much in soils and meso-climes as they do in varieties and styles. Shaped by rivers and criss-crossed with gravel beds, free-draining alluvial soils and stony terraces, they fan out between Havelock and Napier, covering the pioneering vineyards of Taradale and Meeanee plus the barren inland Gimblett Gravels / Bridge Pa triangle area, home to some of the region’s best wines.
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Very sunny, with heat summations somewhere between Burgundy and Bordeaux, the maritime influence tempers hot summer days and permits a long growing season. The surrounding high country offers wind protection through frost can be a risk in some inland areas. Cooler, wet weather can occasionally pose problems in the growing season but free-draining soils help reduce its impact.
SOURCE: MetService Climate Summary 1971-2000
The legacy of four major rivers’ historic meanderings, Hawke’s Bay is a virtual kaleidoscope of soil types, creating significant impact on viticulture and wine styles. The densely-planted plains are alluvial over gravely sub-soils: Havelock has more sandy loams over clay pans while Hastings is surrounded by loamy-clays. Red metals and famous arid, stony gimblett gravels are noteworthy features; the surrounding rolling hill country is clay and limestone-based. Bridge Pa contains the oldest soils on the Heretaunga Plains. These are distinct as they consist of low fertile, free draining alluvium deposit or eroded ash, loess and underlying sediments.