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Hawke's Bay - Excellence from Isolation

Lying out in the Pacific Ocean 900 miles to the southeast of Australia, New Zealand was one of the last lands to be inhabited by humans.  Its remoteness on the globe lends insight into the unique and varied climate and topography that developed there for millennia.  Indeed, the two islands that comprise New Zealand are marked by stark contrasts.

Hawke's Bay is no exception to this facet of the Kiwi nation as the region enjoys one of the warmest and sunniest environments in the country.  Located on the eastern side of the North Island, Hawke's Bay is named after the large semi-circle bay that stretches for over 60 miles along its shoreline.  Inland from the bay, Hawke's Bay has a varied topography with undulating hills, floodplains, and fertile stretches. The vineyards of the region, which is the country's oldest, are planted along five rivers that flow to the bay.  And those stretches of vineyards have proved to produce some of the best grapes New Zealand has to offer.

The Wines of Hawke's Bay
Hawkes Bay
Hawkes Bay

For the most part, wineries in Hawke's Bay continue to be small, family-owned operations with many producing around 2,000 cases per year.  While these boutique operations work with a number of grape varieties (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris to name a handful), Hawke's Bay has earned a reputation for two styles of wine.

Bordeaux Blends - The North Island's unique topography makes Hawke's Bay one of the warmest spots in all of New Zealand.  The region enjoys abundant sunshine, which is a crucial component for ripening grapes.  This is especially true regarding the cultivation of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, two of the grapes made famous in France's Bordeaux region.  Vintners in Hawke's Bay have followed the model established in the famed winegrowing region and produce deep and complex blends using Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as the main grapes.  While the majority of these winemakers tend to use higher percentages of Merlot in their blends, the decision ultimately is made by individual winemakers based on their vineyards and winemaking philosophy.  Not surprisingly, these red blends from Hawke's Bay lean more to a fruit-forward style of wine, yet have been shown to gain complexity as they age.  Look for offerings from the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing region.


Chardonnay - While New Zealand has done an impressive job establishing itself as a premier grower of Sauvignon Blanc (especially from Marlborough), winemakers in Hawke's Bay are trying to elevate the country's status for Chardonnay production.  Around one-third of the total amount of Chardonnay plantings in the country are rooted in Hawke's Bay, and vintners have displayed a talent for making full-bodied examples, with plenty of citrus and stone fruit characteristics. There is also an emerging trend for vintners to produce unoaked examples that embrace those fruit aspects as well as vibrant acidity.

Growing Grapes in Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay is marked by abundant sunshine and warm weather throughout its growing season.  Add in the combination of the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean, hot dry northwesterly winds, low rainfall, and a wide diversity of soils (more than 25 different types), it's not surprising that Hawke's Bay is proving to be one of New Zealand's most promising wine producing regions. These elements also give rise to the variety of grapes that can be found within the region. Hawke's Bay also draws distinction as the region with the highest percentage of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand accredited wineries in the country.  The future certainly looks bright for the region, no matter how remote it may prove to be for exploring humans.

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