Wine Regions

Hawke’s Bay Wine Region

New Zealand’s second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay is on the east coast of the North Island. Its wine growing area spans the reach between the citi…

New Zealand’s second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay is on the east coast of the North Island. Its wine growing area spans the reach between the cities of Napier and Hastings and the warmer climate of Havelock North. Grape vine plantings start north of Napier in the sun and heat-filled Esk Valley, continue through the slightly cooler Dartmoor Valley, then onto the famous Gimblett Road (home of the much-lauded Gimblett gravels soil), 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; in February 1931 Napier, the region’s main town, was destroyed by a violent earthquake and rebuilt in the Art Deco style. Wine has been made in Hawke’s Bay since 1851

Get to 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 or 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.

Climate and style in Hawke’s Bay

Climate and soils vary greatly over such a large area, so it’s impossible to generalise about the wines. Generally, 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 wines but cooler wet weather in the growing season can pose problems. Although Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are the region’s top four varietals, enthusiastic winemakers continue to craft outstanding examples of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Viognier and some sparkling wines.

Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay

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 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.

Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc

More tropical in flavour than most Marlborough sauvignon and preferred by many who have 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.

Limestone Coast Cab Sav

Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris

Hawke’s Bay produces rich, aromatic Pinot Gris with excellent varietal character and fresh fruit flavours balanced by good acidity levels.

Hawke’s Bay Merlot

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.

Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon

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 Bordeeaux-blend styles are grown in gravelly, well-drained soils, such as the Gimblett Gravels, covering 800 hectares of land.

Hawke’s Bay Syrah

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 wines of refinement with dark berry and distinctive spice and pepper characters.

Limestone Coast


Other grape varieties planted in Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir (mainly used for sparkling wines), Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Semillon, Muscat varieties, Gewürztraminer, Viognier and a handful of Italian reds.

Hawkes Bay wineries

Wineries of note in Hawke’s Bay include Babich, Clearview Estate, Esk Valley, Te Mata Estate, Vidal, Mission Estate, Craggy Range, Villa Maria, Trinity Hill, Stonecroft, Sileni Estates, Sacred Hill, Pask, Morton Estate, Mills Reef, Matahiwi Estate, and Delegat, to name a few.

The future of Hawke’s Bay

With a reputation based on quality, the future of Hawke’s Bay wines 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.

File under:

  • Hawke's Bay
  • New Zealand
  • Shiraz
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris