The Hot Red Hawkes Bay Wine Show is an annual event held in Wellington and in Auckland, where I caught up with a few producers, particularly those whom I’ve not seen in the UK – yet.
The tasting venue – The Viaduct Events Centre surrounded by working fishing vessels
Hawke’s Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand, the second largest and the leading producer of red wines. Located at 39.4°S. in the North Island of NZ the climate is maritime and similar to Bordeaux. Although red wines dominate with over 80% of New Zealand’s plantings of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes, serious white wines are also produced.
Viaduct Events Centre
Welcome to Hot Red Hawkes Bay Wines!
Ready for the tasters
The fickle finger of fate?
My first visit was to Elephant Hill where my good friend Steve Olley works. Steve wasn’t there so I met Vince Labat (centre), sales manager, who introduced me to their wines.
An innovative winery estate and restaurant located on the idyllic Te Awanga coast, where the climate is temperate and dry with an extended growing season. All grapes are hand picked and Elephant Hill is accredited by the Sustainable Winegrowers of New Zealand and their Gimblett Vineyard is certified organic.
Elephant Hill Viognier, Hawkes Bay 2013
Mid gold, with spicy white blossom and hints of toast. Dry, good acidity, ripe phenolics with plump passion fruit notes.
Ashley Jones, left.
Ashley Jones and a colleague were also at the Hot Red Hawkes Bay Wine Show to celebrate the Elephant Hill Best Winery Restaurant, Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards 2014 by preparing a huge risotto to share with the consumers in the evening.
The Ngatarawa team ready to pour! All the wines on show bar one were their Stables label, named to honour the historic racing stables that now house the winery. Early land holders and families helped transform Hawke’s Bay into an important horse racing centre. And more recently the Glazebrook family pioneered viticulture.
Ngatarawa Alwyn Winemakers Reserve Merlot Cabernet, Hawkes Bay 2009
Deep dark ruby, with deep dark red fruits. Dry with bags of tannin (this is still a baby) which is aging in perfect balance with the rich concentrated berry and plum flavours.
I’ve enjoyed Ngatarawa wines in the UK and the Stables wines on show are a decent introduction to Hawkes Bay wines. However, at nearly four times the price, the star was the Alwyn Winemakers Reserve Merlot Cabernet, Hawkes Bay 2009. Just released it’ll need time to become a real beauty.
Rod McDonald has neat little portfolio of wines and is a Hot Red Hawkes Bay Wine Producer! Rod established himself as one of Hawke’s Bay’s leading winemakers during his nine years at Vidal Estate, where he earned the title of New Zealand Winemaker of the Year in 2006. Rod set up on his own with several differently named wines, from different areas of Hawkes Bay – some contracted growers and some leased vineyards.
Quarter Acre Syrah, Hawkes Bay 2011
Juicy, ripe and smooth this elegant wine shows lots of red berries, dark fruit and black pepper, all backed up by ripe tannins.
Two Gates Merlot Cabernet Franc, Hawkes Bay 2010
Deep ruby with lots of plums and blackcurrants on the nose. Dry, maturing tannins with attractive spicy notes plus attractive coffee notes.
Click on labels to see my notes
My last port of call was to meet the delightful Rosie Butler of Lime Rock Wines, specialises in Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Grüner Veltliner, believing that the limestone underlying their vineyards contributes sought-after mineral characters.
The underlying limestone base is derived from an old sea bed from 3 million years ago. The crumbly limestone structure, called coquina, is made up of crushed shells.
Rosie returned to New Zealand with Australian husband, Rodger Tynan, in 2000 to set up their small 10ha vineyard in the limestone hills of Central Hawke’s Bay. Rosie is the winemaker and Rodger the viticulturist. They embrace an attention to careful vineyard management using their particular style called Vit-Ecology. Since the 2010 vintage, is certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) - the Lime Rock vineyard having been certified since 2004.
Lime Rock Grüner Veltliner, Hawkes Bay 2013
Pale gold with lime and lemon grass on the nose. Dry, bright acidity with an attractive minerality backed up by richness of fruit.
Lime Rock Pinot Noir, Hawkes Bay 2012
Pale ruby which belies the weight of rich, complex earthy fruit especially ripe morello cherries. Long needing a year or two to really develop.
Click on labels to see my notes
I only scratched the surface of all that was on offer so I look forward to visiting Hawkes Bay soon to better understand this, one of the exciting wine regions of New Zealand.
Like the sound of these wines and would like to try them? Find where they’re sold by using Wine-Searcher.