Unlike most of New Zealand’s other wine regions, where wine making has really only come to life in the past 40 years, Hawkes Bay is steeped in viticultural history. The Mission Estate was founded by Catholic Marist brothers in 1851 and is still producing wines of exceptional note today, as is Te Mata Estate, in operation since the 1870s.
Today it’s pretty difficult to pigeon-hole the Hawkes Bay wine region. With wonderful sun and such a massive variety of soils and microclimates the region essentially does everything well. Chardonnay physically holds the most ground but it is probably the region’s red varietals which are getting the lion’s share of attention. Hawkes Bay is responsible for producing over 80% of New Zealand’s entire red harvest and local wineries’ blends of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are widely championed.
These days, confident in its steady and reliable successes, Hawkes Bay is becoming a wine-makers’ playground. Exploring is the name of the game as wineries exploit their near perfect conditions, experimenting with widely overlooked, exotic varietals including Viognier, Verdelho, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Zinfandel.