New Zealand Wine Map

New Zealand Wine Map

The natural environment

Was Bragato right in his favourable assessment of Hawke’s Bay’s natural environment for the vine? From a climatic perspective, the answer has to be ‘yes’. The region’s varietal versatility is the most convincing evidence. It is able to ripen a wider range of grape varieties than any other region in New Zealand. Growers can achieve this because Hawke’s Bay has both a longer and hotter growing season than most parts of New Zealand, although still remaining within the cool-climate spectrum. This attribute combines with an annual rainfall of under 1000 millimetres (much of the Heretaunga Plains receives under 800 mm) and low humidity. Other parts of the North Island are as hot in summer, some even persistently hotter, but none combine the long, hot growing season with relatively low humidity and low rainfall (Figure 6.2).

Hawke’s Bay’s distinctive climate for the vine does distinguish it from other regions of New Zealand. Over the growing season it accumulates more degree-days than any other of the main New Zealand winegrowing regions. Parts of coastal Hawke’s Bay from north of Napier to south of Hastings and extending almost 20 kilometres inland receive on average 1400 degree-days annually. It is not surprising therefore, that Hawke’s Bay, together with Auckland and Northland, are the only wine regions of New Zealand where Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are overrepresented compared with other varieties. Other regions have difficulty in ripening such varieties that require a longer growing season and hotter summer conditions than most of New Zealand can provide, other than in the warmest seasons. Despite his attraction to the variety, and success with his Celebre blend of Cabernet, Clive Paton of Atarangi, Martinborough could not achieve ripeness in sufficient seasons for him to maintain his Cabernet Sauvignon in production.

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Interacting with these atmospheric qualities is a wide range of soils with a reasonably high proportion of them free draining. The detailed pattern of soils is very complicated on the Heretaunga and associated plains, river terraces and rolling hills of Hawke’s Bay, but four broad categories of surface materials that relate to the geomorphology of the region can be identified.

The first category, which comprises a strip of land roughly parallel to the shoreline but varying in width from hundreds of metres to over a kilometre, consists of former beach gravels in a matrix of sand with sandy loams on the surface. The second category is fine alluvium. It covers much of the Heretaunga Plains and was originally wetlands before being extensively drained from the mid-nineteenth century. These fertile soils are now largely protected from flooding by the stopbanks along the main rivers of the

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