Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Hawkes Bay means different things to different people – good food, great weather, long days, and land like no other. For us it means wine, not just the fashionable stuff, but the stuff that’s hard to graft, hard to grow, hard to make and hard to put down.

Place

New Zealand lies deep in the South Pacific - south of the sub-tropics, and south east of Australia, separated by the Tasman Sea. Its three main islands have a north-south span of 1500 kilometres, with less than a 290 kilometre span east west at the broadest point.

Surrounded by sea, New Zealand has a temperate, maritime climate that gives rise to wines with well-defined varietal flavours. It has cooler summers and milder winters than those generally experienced in Europe.

Three critical factors influence New Zealand’s climate

  • The latitude - spread between 34S and 47S - is within the temperate zone.
  • The ocean - hot air masses from Australia and freezing winds from Antarctica are significantly modified by the ocean mass giving New Zealand moderate temperatures.
  • The topography - mountain ranges run north/south the length of the country and directly affect rainfall. The East Coast is significantly drier than the West, the North is warmer than the South. Rivers run from these central mountain ranges to the sea and over time, old riverbeds have provided the basis for free-draining vineyard sites.

Hawkes Bay

New Zealand’s second largest wine region, sunny Hawke’s Bay has been an abundant source of fine wine since 1851; it’s well-established wine tourism trail also showcases the region’s art deco architecture (mainly in Napier city) and artisan producers.

Over a quarter of a century ago, Ngatarawa Wines put its roots down into the free-draining red metal soils of Hawke's Bay's Bridge Pa Triangle west of Hastings. Like earlier generations of his family, the wine venture's founder Alwyn Corban, was showing a pioneering mindset. Establishing the winery and vineyard in Ngatarawa Road, he has spearheaded the development of the western plains as this region's most significant winegrowing area.


Climate

Hawke’s Bay’s benign climate and high sunshine have long-established the region as ideal for fruit-growing. Vines were first planted in 1851 by Marist missionaries (their legacy is Taradale’s historic Mission Winery) and Hawke’s Bay enjoys a significant international reputation for producing some of the country’s best wines, red and white.

A relatively large and diverse region capable of producing a wide range of varieties to a very high standard, Hawke’s Bay is best known for its Bordeaux-blend reds and Chardonnay but aromatic whites are consistently good and Syrah is increasingly impressive. The climate and lengthy growing season also allows regular production of successful dessert styles. New varieties are continually trialled.

The numerous wineries and vineyards encompass both large multi-regional entities and tiny family-owned boutique producers; all share a commitment to making great wine. With its lengthy history and verdant, productive landscape, Hawke’s Bay is home to an outstanding wine tourism culture and offers a wide variety of cellar door experiences as well as regular food and wine festivals.

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.