About this WINE
Hawkes Bay, encompassing Napier on the east coast of North Island, is New Zealand's second largest region by plantings, with 4,500 hectares (or 20 percent of the country's total) in 2006. It is led by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (34 percent), Chardonnay (23 percent), Sauvignon Blanc (16.5 percent) and Pinot Noir (nine percent).
It boasts a diverse spread of soils, from fertile alluvial to stony dry, resulting in an array of variously-sized wineries from the small to the not-so-small; the region accounts for 12.5 percent of the country's 530 wineries, suggesting a happy balance between the two.
Hawkes Bay continues to fine-tune its Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc Bordeaux blends, offering some fine, fresh, pencil-shaving-nuanced examples, particularly from the Te Mata Estate (ie Coleraine). The more recent success story seems to be that of Syrah, in a cool, black pepper Northern Rhône style.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.