Hawke’s Bay is the second largest wine region in New Zealand. It is located on the central east coast of the North Island. Grape vines were first planted in the Hawke’s Bay in 1851 by Marist missionaries, their legacy is Taradale’s historic Mission Winery. Hawke’s Bay has since earned itself an international reputation for Cabernet and Merlot blends, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and an array of aromatic white wines. The warm climate and lengthy growing season also allow for the successful production of dessert wine styles.
Vineyard area & wine production: 2016 4,411 hectares (10,895 acres) of which 2,005 hectares (4,952 acres) for red wine and 2,406 hectares (5,943 acres) for white producing 43,000 tonnes (10% of the New Zealand total).
Climate: 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.
Soil: 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.
Coastal areas: Although the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean extends into much of Hawke’s Bay, the two grape growing areas located directly on the coast enjoy the most dramatic effects of the temperate climate and long growing season. The gravelly soils of Bay View in the northern Esk River Valley area and Te Awanga in the South have achieved recognition for premium Chardonnay and early ripening reds, including Pinot Noir.
Hillsides: The vineyards at Havelock North on the slopes of Te Mata Peak have been an important feature of Hawke’s Bay since the 1890s. More recently the hillside terraces have been re-established at Bay View and new hillside vineyards have been planted in the Esk River Valley region and Maraekakaho. With their aspect to the sun, and ability to shed cool night air the hillsides are predominantly planted in classic red varieties.
Alluvial plains: Some of the region’s earliest wineries began in areas closest to commercial activity. These include the extensive plantings at Korokipo as well as Taradale and Meanee where the history of Hawke’s Bay winemaking began. Further inland are Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and Ohiti. These areas were formed over several thousands of years by the changing course of the lower Ngaruroro River as it left red metal, free draining alluvial soils, gravel and stony terraces. The accumulated heat and day/night temperature differences, together with the free draining qualities soils are the reason many of Hawke’s Bay’s wineries and vineyards have established plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varieties here.
River Valleys: Running across Hawke’s Bay, from the sheltering inland ranges in the West to the sea in the East, are four rivers which have over time created a huge diversity of grape growing sites. These sites have provided sheltered environments, with variations in altitude, aspect to the sun and variations in soil type. Fine examples of premium Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are sourced from the higher altitude sites.
Central Hawke’s Bay: Inland at an altitude of up to 300 metres Central Hawke’s Bay vineyards are characterised as being cooler areas showing potential for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.
Chardonnay: Flagship white variety, full-bodied.
Sauvignon Blanc: Rich style, often with a degree of oak fermentation or maturation.
Pinot Gris: Bold, ripe wines.
Red blends: Bordeaux blends are highly successful, producing wines of great power, elegance and longevity. Percentages of Merlot are increasingly in blends. Experimental plantings of Italian and Spanish varieties.
Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir 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.
Syrah: A work in progress.