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Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay is located on the east coast of the North Island in and around the cities of Napier, Hastings and Havelock North. This historic region has New Zealand's second largest wine industry (after Marlborough) and is highly regarded for its red Bordeaux Blend wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay are all planted widely across the region.

The viticultural area of Hawke's Bay derives its name from the large, semi-circular bay on the Pacific coastline in which it sits, roughly 35 miles (55km) south of Gisborne. Vineyards stretch along the paths of five major rivers that snake inland toward the central North Island, contributing significantly to the region's terroir. The wine plots sit on a wide array of sites, from steep hillsides to gravelly river terraces.

Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's oldest wine regions, dating back to 1851 when missionaries planted vineyards to make sacramental wines. This is a history shared by many New World wine regions, notably California and Chile. The first commercial sale of wines in the Hawke's Bay was recorded in 1870. By the 1920s, a thriving wine industry called Hawke's Bay home, and some of those early wineries are still operating today.

Hawke's Bay's varied soil patterns make it one of the most versatile wine-producing regions in New Zealand. These soils, mostly volcanic and geologically young, have been deposited in the area by rivers over time. Free-draining sand, silt and clay are all common, as is gravel, which is present in the very best vineyard sites. Any discussion of Hawke's Bay would be incomplete without mentioning Gimblett Gravels, a terroir comprising shingle soils and warm temperatures that are particularly suited to growing Syrah and Bordeaux Blend varieties. The gravels were laid down by a river, the Ngaruroro, which changed its course after a flood in 1867.

The warm, dry summers and long autumns experienced in Hawke's Bay are excellent for viticulture. The maritime climate means that the warmth brought about by long sunshine hours is moderated by the Pacific Ocean. This coastal influence is reduced moving inland, as the Hawke's Bay's varied topography provides shelter from the prevailing weather systems. Vignerons must choose their sites carefully to take advantage of the region's complex mesoclimates.

Over the years, the region has won international acclaim for its very high-quality Bordeaux-style reds and full-bodied Chardonnays. Syrah, produced in a classic European style with strong black-pepper flavours, is another grape variety thought to have great potential here.

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