Hawke’s Bay Wine Region, New Zealand

Surrounding the towns of Hastings and Napier Hawke’s Bay is a unique part of New Zealand. Driving through New Zealand you start to grow accustomed to the site of vineyards and wineries on all sides, but you certainly won’t get used to the geometric ornaments and motifs of the Art-Deco style of architecture. Rebuilt almost from scratch after a 1930s earthquake, Napier (and to a lesser extent Hastings) gives you the feeling you are in the Truman Show. This strange feeling continues when you seemingly the majority of restaurants and bars are closed for business.The places that aren’t shut are busy until late at night despite them being expensive, pretentious and in my experience the service being below par.

In stark contrast to the City of Napier, the wineries in the surrounding area all emit a vibe of passion and love of wine. Great red wine is the order of the day in Hawke’s Bay with wineries growing Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and the odd Pinot Noir. The region is not without its Whites with award-winning Chardonnay and complex aromatics (Mainly Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier). The climate provides great wine-making for the rich flavoured reds with hot summer temperatures, low rainfall and long sunlight hours.

Add to this a large number of micro-regions which provide the wines of this area a great deal of diversity. The most renowned of these micro-regions is the Gimblett Gravels region which has very gravelly soil providing a perfect fast-draining basis for the Bordeaux varieties. A number of wineries in the area own vineyards in this small apellation and produce single vineyard and reserve labels from them with amazing results.

We only spent an afternoon and a morning tasting wines in the area but we left wishing we had a whole lot more time, more space in the luggage and some sort of expense account. The wineries we stopped at were:

  • Elephant Hill
  • Clearview
  • Kim Crawford
  • Craggy Range
  • Te Mata
  • Vidal
  • Matariki
  • Trinity Hill

Having spent a fair bit of time in and around Central Otago wineries and seeing a small part of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries really were something special. Each of the wineries was unique, the staff were passionate, the wines were beautiful and there was a feel of history and of something special in the air. While it may not be the major draw card of New Zealand wine, it for me is what I will remember when thinking of the people and the feel of New Zealand wine.

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