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.