Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's oldest wine region with beginnings in 1851 pioneering innovation and leadership.
By the early 1920's, Mission Estate, Te Mata Estate, Vidal Estate, McDonalds Winery and Glenvale Winery (now Esk Valley Winery) were all established in the region. The soils and climate that so excited the early winemaking efforts of those pioneers continues to provide the inspiration for the current generation of Hawke's Bay winemakers.
It is now New Zealand's second largest wine region and the largest premium red wine producing region in the country.
The earliest vineyards in Hawke's Bay were established on the coast and in areas close to the towns of Napier, Havelock North and Hastings. Later development extended to the Heretaunga Plains and more recently to the edges of the alluvial plains and extend up the regions river valleys. Smaller plantings are exploring hillside sites around the fringes of the Heretaunga Plains as well as higher altitude sites of inland Central Hawke's Bay.
Hawke's Bay covers a total land area of 1.4 million hectares on 350km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Vineyards are concentrated in 50km x 30km area around the Hastings and Napier cities within sheltering inland ranges although more are being planted over a larger area 140km by 60km to the North and South.
Over thousands of years, 4 major Hawke's Bay rivers moved and formed valleys and terraces to create over 25 different soil types from clay loam, to limestone to sands and free draining gravels and red metal. Altitude within Hawke's Bay ranges from sea level to several hundred metres inland. Warm north-facing hillsides, river valleys and terraces, and coastal areas provide a diversity of low vigour vineyard sites suitable for a diversity of varieties.
Running across Hawke's Bay, from the sheltering inland ranges in the West to the sea in the East, are four rivers which have over time created a huge diversity of grape growing sites. These sites have provided sheltered environments, with variations in altitude, aspect to the sun and variations in soil type. Fine examples of premium Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are sourced from the higher altitiude sites.
Although the maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean extends into much of Hawke's Bay, the two grape growing areas located directly on the coast enjoy the most dramatic effects of the temperate climate and long growing season. The gravelly soils of Bay View in the northern Esk River Valley area and Te Awanga in the South have achieved recognition for premium Chardonnay and early ripening reds, including Pinot Noir.
Some of the region's earliest wineries began in areas closest to commercial activity. These include the extensive plantings at Korokipo as well as Taradale and Meanee where the history of Hawke's Bay winemaking began. Further inland are Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and Ohiti. These areas were formed over several thousands of years by the changing course of the lower Ngaruroro River as it left red metal, free draining alluvial soils, gravel and stony terraces. The accumulated heat and day/night temperature differences, together with the free draining qualities soils are the reason many of Hawke's Bay's wineries and vineyards have established plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varieties here.
The vineyards at Havelock North on the slopes of Te Mata Peak have been an important feature of Hawke's Bay since the 1890's. More recently the hillside terraces have been re-established at Bay View and new hillside vineyards have been planted in the Esk River Valley region and Maraekakaho. With their aspect to the sun, and ability to shed cool night air the hillsides are predominantly planted in classic red varieties.
Central Hawke's Bay
Inland at an altitude of up to 300 metres Central Hawke's Bay vineyards are characterised as being cooler areas showing potential for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.