Hawke’s Bay hails 2020 vintage with a slew of stellar Chardonnays
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
© New Zealand Wines/Craggy Range
Poor soils and sunshine
Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island has made its name with fine Syrahs and Bordeaux blends. Its poor soils of ancient river gravels and silts used to spell hardship for farmers, huge swathes of land were needed to allow flocks of sheep to survive. Just over 40 years ago, the area’s potential for viticulture was discovered – because vines thrive where other crops struggle.
Climate also plays its part and where the soils are richer, Hawke’s Bay was long known for its apples and juicy peaches, and there are still plenty of orchards around. That same sun ripens grapes and, in combination with the poorer soils, predestines the area for fine wines.
The 2020 vintage
It was not only the words they said but the smiles that accompanied their statements that made one thing clear: the 2020 vintage was superb in Hawke’s Bay. “An incredibly beautiful growing season and super-dry for harvest. Some of the most incredibly clean fruit I have ever seen,” said Cairn Coghill of Askerne Wines. Rod McDonald at Te Awanga Estate said “2020 was an amazing vintage,” noting that the winemakers could choose when to pick as the weather was absolutely gorgeous throughout harvest. Hugh Crichton of Elephant Hill called 2020 “an outstanding vintage without disease pressure.” Sarah Little of Helios called it “impeccable,” Warren Gibson of Trinity Hill uses the term “great,” while Jenny Dobson of Squawking Magpie said it had been perfect. “Not too much sun, not too much heat, not to much rain, our grapes were in perfect condition.”
Dobson also explained more about Hawke's Bay as a region: “We have the influence of sea, we have the influence of rivers, we have the influence of altitude, therefore we have the opportunity to make a range of Chardonnays, a diversity of styles.” The inland regions showed fruity generosity while the coastal vineyards shone with freshness. Whatever your preferred style, if you love Chardonnay and Hawke’s Bay is not on your map yet, it should be.
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