The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

2016 vintage to put Hawke’s Bay wines on world stage

rsz_hawkes_bay_vidal_estate_hugh_crichton_testing_barrelsElegant, phenomenal, succulent, exceptional – even “the holy grail” – are superlatives being used to describe Hawke’s Bay’s 2016 vintage.

With harvest now complete, renowned winemakers are boldly predicting this year will solidify Hawke’s Bay’s prowess as one of the greatest wine regions in the world.

“Our 2016 wines are delicious, the Chardonnays are as good as anything back to 2010,” Michael Henley, Trinity Hill CEO, says. “Our Gimblett Gravels reds are juicy and succulent, soft and rich. The earlier-ripening varieties – Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo – are as good as we have ever made.”

Trophy award-winning winemaker Hugh Crichton of Vidal Estate is equally excited about the quality of this year’s yield. “Our Chardonnay blocks were outstanding. It’s early days but things are looking incredible. This year we were able to pick at least a brix earlier than normal and we also experienced our first 100 per cent success rate with natural ferments. The wines will show good natural acidity and flavour at moderate alcohol with real drinkability. Importantly they will age fantastically.

“Across all varieties the wines will deliver elegance. On the vines the reds had great flavour at relatively low sugar levels. This will help produce wines with ripe flavour profiles, freshness and moderate alcohols with beautiful balance that for many is the holy grail. Many of the great wines of the world possess these qualities.”

A long run of warm, dry weather that had the nation talking, has had growers and viticulturists celebrating. From mid-January to mid-March, Hawke’s Bay had optimum conditions, with more than 50 days where temperatures exceeded more than 25C, and very little rainfall.

Villa Maria’s National Viticulturist Ollie Powrie says he has tasted some fantastic 2016 wines in barrel. “The Merlot Cabernet blends will do well, we’ll see good levels of ripeness and tannin structure. It’s been one of the best Chardonnay vintages for Hawke’s Bay since 2010.”

Henley, Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Association, is confident the quality of the 2016 vintage will result in greater international recognition.

“Having four strong consecutive vintages cements Hawke’s Bay’s pedigree and helps build momentum on the global stage. It shows we are not a one-trick, one-vintage pony, we are masters year after year.”

He is leading a delegation in China this week [nb – May 16-20] holding comparative tastings of Hawke’s Bay Syrah versus French syrah. The 10 wineries showcasing the region’s reputable reds to trade buyers and wine influencers in Beijing and Shanghai include Te Mata Estate, Trinity Hill, Elephant Hill, Ngatarawa, Vidal Estate and Babich.

“It’s about placing our Syrah and our Merlot Cabernets within the world of wine and giving them an identity, and China is a key market for our region,” Henley says. “We are well known in New Zealand and have our sights on that same pedigree around the world.”

He points to Rabobank’s latest quarterly wine report that documents lower harvest yields for Chile, Argentina and South Africa as providing further opportunities to increase exports.

“There are real, and exciting opportunities for Hawke’s Bay wines.”