Hawke’s Bay (July 2019)

New Zealand’s second-largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay has been producing fine quality table wines since the 1890s. Today, it is renowned for its success with such prestigious varieties as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, but it’s easy to overlook the extreme diversity of its climate, soils – and wine styles.

From the Esk Valley in the north to Central Hawke’s Bay in the south, Mangatahi and Matapiro inland to Te Awanga on the coast, the wines of Hawke’s Bay are strongly influenced by soil types, proximity to the sea and elevation. Vineyards near the coast are cooled by afternoon sea breezes, but 10 to 20 kilometres inland the more sheltered sites are significantly warmer. Further inland again, on more elevated land, the daily temperature range increases, the nights are cooler and the climate is more continental. These climate differences, coupled with the extreme soil variation – ranging from stones to hard pans to heavy silts – have a profound influence on the wines.

Chardonnay (22 per cent), Merlot (21.9 per cent) and Sauvignon Blanc (20.8 per cent) dominate the region’s total vine plantings, but Hawke’s Bay also has significant pockets of Pinot Gris, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Underlining the region’s versatility, the tasting also unearthed delicious examples of Albariño, Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Malbec.