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Gimblett Gravels

Gimblett Gravels is a wine growing district within the Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand. Although only a very small area, the district has made a significant impact on the New Zealand wine market in a very short space of time. The first wine grapes were planted there in 1981, and by 1991 only 50 acres (20ha) had been planted. There are now approximately 1,500 acres (600ha) of vines there, consisting mostly of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Gimblett Gravels Syrah has been recognised as being of an internationally high standard, despite the first plantings of the variety being as recent as 1993.

In a modern twist on the appellation system used in France, Gimblett Gravels is a legally registered brand rather than a full region, and was created in 2001. There are no specific winemaking restraints on Gimblett Gravels wine producers, but there are strict provenance conditions on the grapes. In order to claim the Gimblett Gravels brand, a wine producer must be able to prove that 95% of the grapes used to make the wine came from the Gimblett Gravels Wine Growing District, and that 95% of the soils in the vineyard conform to the soil types defined in the designation of the district. As of early 2010 there were approximately 25 wine producers making Gimblett Gravels wines, and a small handful of growers who supply grapes to companies outside the area.

The particular soils and climate of the area are credited with the quality of the grapes grown there. The gravels in question are alluvial deposits of greywacke, washed down from the mountainous spine of New Zealand by the Ngaruroro river. The stones, gravels and coarse sands which characterise the area drain freely, preventing the vines from becoming waterlogged and forcing them to grow long, healthy root systems. Also, the superior heat retention of the clays and the high reflectivity of the pebbles help Gimblett Gravels grapes to achieve full phenolic ripeness during the growing season.

Located immediately west of the town of Hastings, 19km (12 miles) inland from the Pacific coast, Gimblett Gravels is sheltered from immediate coastal breezes but benefits from a moderated maritime climate.

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