Introducing Hawke's Bay
New Zealand’s second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay, is on the east coast of the North Island. Its wine growing area spans between the cities of Napier, Hastings and the warmer climate of Havelock North. Grape vine plantings start north of Napier in the heat-filled Esk Valley, continuing through the slightly cooler Dartmoor Valley, then onto the famous Gimblett, Ngatarawa and Maraekakaho Road areas which are being developed at an impressive rate. Winemaking and Art Deco are Hawke’s Bay’s main claims to fame.
Where is Hawke’s Bay?
Hawke’s Bay is a crescent shaped bay on the eastern side of New Zealand’s north island. The nearest main town is Napier, easily accessible by air (approximately a one-hour flight from Auckland) or by road via state highway 2 from the north, south, or state highway 5 or 50 from the north or southwest. The closest wineries to Napier, Mission Estate and Church Road are only a 10-minute drive from the city centre.
Hawke's Bay Climate
Climate and soils vary greatly over such a large area so it’s impossible to generalise about the wines. Hawke’s Bay is very sunny, with a similar climate somewhere between that of Burgundy and Bordeaux in France. Annual average rainfall of 803mm provides water for the wine but cooler wet weather in the growing season can pose problems.
Unique Characteristics of Hawke's Bay
Although Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are the region’s top six varietals, enthusiastic winemakers continue to craft outstanding examples of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Viognier and some sparkling wines as a result of its unique climate.
Wines to try from Hawke's Bay
This is the region’s most-planted white grape variety and its flagship white wine style. When grown in Hawke’s Bay, it’s often thought of as secondary to the rich. Riper Chardonnays are produced slightly further north in regions like Gisborne. The best from Hawke’s Bay taste of elegant stonefruit and citrus and show good ageing potential.
More tropical in flavour than most Marlborough sauvignon and preferred by many who are tired of that region’s pungent style, though the best can hold their own with many of their southern counterparts. Many Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blancs undergo a degree of oak fermentation adding complexity.
Hawke’s Bay produces rich, aromatic Pinot Gris with excellent varietal character and fresh fruit flavours balanced by good acidity levels.
Plantings of Merlot in Hawke’s Bay overtake Cabernet Sauvignon as the most widely-planted red wine grape. Merlot ripens more consistently than Cabernet, with the region’s best merlots and Merlot-based reds yielding generous, warm berry-fruit and chocolate flavours. Malbec is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to create Bordeaux-style blends of great structure, character and longevity.
Once New Zealand’s most planted red, with Hawke’s Bay leading the way, Cabernet Sauvignon is quickly being caught by Merlot. In good vintages Hawke’s Bay Cabernet is ripe, elegant and rich with classic blackberry, mint and cedary flavours. But in less-successful vintages it can take on green, leafy characters. Some of the finest Bordeaux-blend styles are grown in gravelly, well-drained soils, such as the Gimblett Gravels, covering 800 hectares of land.
In New Zealand, Shiraz is known by its French name, Syrah, a nod to the country’s more elegant, spicy European-styled wines. The Hawke’s Bay style of Syrah is impressive with dark berry and distinctive spice and pepper character refinements.
Key Hawke's Bay Wine Event
F.A.W.C! Food and Wine Classic
Twice a year Hawke's bay is home to F.A.W.C! Set in stunning locations throughout Hawke's Bay, this delicious event series of "out of the box" food and wine experiences is becoming increasingly popular. In Winter, experience roaring fires, musical notes and a beautiful endless amount of local produce prepared in warming ways. In the Summer experience outstanding food and wine showcased at Hawke's Bays breath-taking winery locations.
The future of Hawke’s Bay
With a reputation based on quality, the future of Hawke’s Bay is set to continue on its path of success. The high sunshine, pristine natural environment and well-drained gravelly soils help the region produce New Zealand’s most outstanding examples of Bordeaux-style red blends, flavoursome yet balanced Chardonnays and outstanding aromatic whites.
- Hawke's Bay
- New Zealand
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Gris