Hawke’s Bay is a wine growing region located on the North Eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island. It is NZ’s oldest and second-largest growing region (it boasts over 200 vineyards), producing about 10% of the country’s wine. There are 70 wineries (30 with cellar doors where you can actually go and taste) located throughout the area, with some being established as far back as the middle/late 19th Century (Te Mata, Church Road, Mission Estate).
With a warmer climate than those prominent growing regions further South, Hawke’s Bay grows primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay, although of course many other varieties are also to be found, either as single varietal offerings or in blends.
There are several sub districts within Hawke’s Bay, most notably Gimblett Gravels – an area of about 2,000 acres legally defined by its soil type (rather than geographical or political boundaries). What’s unique about Gimblett Gravels is that it’s basically pure gravel beds with lenses of sand, silt, and clay at varying depths. Up until the 1980s, it was thought to be the poorest land in the area, unfit for cultivation of any sort. However, when Chris Pask (of Pask Winery) was having trouble fully ripening his Cabernet grapes on more fertile soil in a different area of the Bay, he decided to take a chance and plant on the barren area. Because of the high gravel content, this area gets much warmer (and retains the heat better) than other parts of Hawke’s Bay, therefore ensuring ripening for those hearty red varietals. Eventually, others caught on and land prices soared to a premium, and it is now recognized as a top wine producing region world-wide.
With wine being such a draw, it’s no wonder the area is a huge tourist destination. There are dozens of wine tour companies and related activities. You can follow the wine trail yourself, be it on car or bike. The area is absolutely stunning, and it’s well worth staying for a few days and wine tasting to your heart’s delight!