If Hawkes Bay was the largest wine region in New Zealand, it would be one of the best in the world. Visit the Hawke’s Bay wine guide and discover a new wine region.

Hawkes Bay by Te Mata Peak. Photo: Te Mata Manor

Hawk Bay Guide

New Zealand is known for its zesty Sauvignon Blanc and impeccable Pinot Noir, but this Pacific country also produces rich Bordeaux blends, earthy Syrah and ripe Chardonnay. Most come from the temperate region of Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island.

Discover the red and white wines and the sub-regions that define this little wine paradise.

Red HawksHawk Bay

Bordeaux grape varieties and blends

A blend of rich Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot has long been Hawkes Bay’s signature red wine. This Bordeaux combines blackberries, plums, subtle spices like sage, and dusty tannins. They balance power and elegance, can go big but never overdo it.

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The concentrated aromas and fresh acidity reflect the maritime climate and the gravelly soil. Nevertheless, the harmony of these wines is also the testimony of experienced winemakers whose job it is to complement the bold structure and refinement of Cabernet Sauvignon with a bright, concentrated expression of Hawkes Bay Merlot.

Firm, ripe tannins and a spicy aroma accentuate these wines which, unlike those from warmer climates, remain fresh, elegant and lively. These properties also make them suitable for long-term use.

Hawke’s Bay blends are mostly dominated by Merlot on the right bank of Bordeaux, with varying proportions of dark, spicy Malbec, red-fruited Cabernet Franc, and spicy Petit Verdot for added interest. Single-varietal wines are also produced, with an underrated Kiwi class.

Syrah – New Zealand’s next big project?

Hawkes Bay Syrah shows characters of the cooler climate, with white pepper and fragrant purple petals and licorice in the foreground.

These wines often have higher acidity and give a fresher, more fiery impression of red fruit and darker than Syrahs from warmer climates such as California or Chile. French oak, with its subtle influence of smoke and spices, has a stronger, more vanilla and creamy character than American oak.

Hawkes Bay syrah is often compared (and sometimes confused) with syrah from the northern Rhone, the spiritual home of the variety. Almost nothing compares to its opposite neighbor, Shiraz, so it’s a good thing they have different names!

Like the famous Syrah Hermitage or Cotie Rotie, good examples of Hawkes Bay Syrah show layers of black currant, blackberry, sour cherry, coffee, milk chocolate, black olive, smoke and exotic spices like nutmeg, cardamom and juniper.

It’s intoxicating! The finish tends to be dense and concentrated, due to the acidity of the region’s sea breeze, while the tannins tend to be fine or powdery.

Goshawk Bay White

Chardonnay

Hawkes Bay Chardonnay borders on luxury, but its precisely calibrated acidity and minerality balance the richness potential of the variety. A flagship of the region, good examples have serious dynamism and concentration on the palate, medium to full body and elegant structure.

The pure fruit flavors lean toward peach, nectarine and grapefruit, while the characters aged in barrels offer cashew and brioche.

The creamy, soft effect of malolactic fermentation is a stylistic choice, and there is an increasing insistence on not overdoing it with the oak.

The cooling influence of the ocean provides a fresh, acidic backbone that keeps the body lean and medium and allows the syrupy minerality to shine through. The upper sub-regions are coastal areas : At Awanga, Tukituki Valley and Esk Valley.

sauvignon blanc

Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc retains the typical New Zealand lipstick, but shows a taste of riper tropical fruit than the fresher Marlborough.

Good examples are the aromas of yuzu, guava, kaffir lime and white nectarine, passion fruit, pineapple, grapefruit, gooseberry, crushed greens and sea salt on the palate.

There is a growing trend towards partial barrel fermentation and oak maturation, creating more complex aromas such as elderflower and basil, as well as smoky and biscuity notes. The oak also tempers the Sauvignon Blanc’s familiar acidity and provides a softer mouthfeel compared to the sharp edges created in stainless steel tanks.

Hawkes Bay by Te Mata Peak. Photo: Te Mata Manor

Subregions of Hawkes Bay

Yeska Valley

The northernmost subregion, the narrow outlet of the Yeska Valley into the sea, offers a unique combination of shelter and ocean influence. The result is a deep, soft red that accents ripe blackberries and cherries, as well as dried herbs, smoke and licorice.

Thanks to subtropical and mild winters and warm summers, we get early ripening grapes that thrive alongside avocados, stone fruits and citrus. The soil formed by the Esk River consists mainly of alluvial silt with silty gravel inclusions.

Located on a steep limestone slope, Terrace’s unique vineyard is home to a collection of complex white wines with broad shoulders that reflect the mineral-rich soils and inherent warmth of the region.

In the upper valley there are artisan producers such as Petane, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Riesling and Pinot Gris.

Vineyarders’ dream – Esk Valley. Photo: Hawke’s Bay Wine

Cardanian ballast

The grands crus of the Hawkes Bay sub-region, world-class Bordeaux blends, Syrah and Chardonnay come from gravelly soils. Thanks to the ideal growing conditions, the wines are powerful, concentrated and perfectly balanced.

Located 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Gimblett Gravels is not subject to the refreshing sea breezes that characterize other Hawkes Bay subregions.

Air and ground temperatures tend to fluctuate greatly due to their internal positioning and thermal convection through the river rocks. The heat of the day allows the grapes to ripen optimally, while the cooling of the night preserves acidity and flavor.

River gravel sinks behind a thin layer of sandy topsoil until the vines reach moisture, minerals and nutrients.

As in some regions of Bordeaux and the Rhone, the free-flowing soil produces earthy fruit flavors, silky tannins and medium to full-bodied red wines. These wines are both earthy and rustic, beautiful and polished.

Triangular Pa Bridge

The Triangle de Pa bridge produces powerful and distinctive grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, as well as Chardonnay and Viognier.

This sub-area is adjacent to the Gimblet Gravels and was also formed over thousands of years as the Ngaruroro River changed course.

Scattered with mountains due to the prevailing western climate, it lies far enough inland to let in sea breezes. Free-flowing river gravel, known locally as red metal, covered with loess, volcanic ash and grauwacke, yields beautiful, seductive red wines and rich, brilliant whites.

At Avang

The classic Chardonnay and early, fragrant reds like Cabernet Franc grow on the beach. Although marine influence extends throughout Hawkes Bay, Te Awanga exhibits the most dramatic effects of a temperate coastal climate and long growing season. Due to the proximity of the sea, the wines often have a salty, mineral and wet stone character.

Hawkes Bay is arguably the largest wine region in New Zealand, and therefore one of the best in the world. From Te Awanga Chardonnay in Bordeaux, mixing Gimblett Gravel and Pa Bridge, to Esk Valley Syrah, Crownhorpe Sauvignon Blanc and inspired flavours, there’s almost nothing in Hawkes Bay that isn’t there.

frequently asked questions

What kind of wine is known in Hawkes Bay?

Hawke’s Bay is best known for its excellent blends of red wines, the famous Syrah and the equally impressive Chardonnay. Hawke’s Bay is a relatively large and diverse area, capable of producing a wide range of varieties at very high levels. About 90% of New Zealand’s Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot is produced here.

What is the best Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand?

NZ Sauvignon Blanc – Cooking wine

What is the best white wine in New Zealand?

The best white wines of New Zealand | Wine Lovers

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