Hawke’s Bay is the largest wine region in the North Island and the country’s second largest. It is also rich in wine history. Vines were first planted in the Bay in 1851 by French Marist Brothers. The winery they founded (today called Mission Estate) is New Zealand’s oldest and is still under the ownership of the Society of Mary.
Pinot Noir arrived in Hawke’s Bay in the late 19th century. Today it occupies only a small part (231ha or 5%) of the region’s vineyard area, and much of that is used for sparkling wine. This is a region where the emphasis is on Chardonnay, Bordeaux blends and Syrah.
Hawke’s Bay basks in famously high doses of summer sunshine. The proximity of the sea has a cooling effect, ensuring grapes are not over-cooked. A good portion of the region’s vines are planted on the Heretaunga plain, a broad coastal flatland created by the ever-shifting pathways of several fast-moving rivers. The plain offers alluvial over gravelly subsoils, while the surrounding hill country is both clay and (in parts) limestone-based.
The region’s Pinot Noir plantings are based mainly in the hillier, inland areas, cooler than the plain and with more diurnal variation. Crownthorpe and Matapiro are sub-regions where it has a foothold. Further south, in part due to the lure of limestone, there is a cluster of Pinot producers in Central Hawke’s Bay.
Lime Rock Wines
Established in 2001 at 270m above sea level on limestone slopes in Central Hawkes Bay, Lime Rock is producing some stunning Pinot Noir vintages on this unique site. The vineyard is managed to protect ecological processes (vit-ecology) and follows a philosophy of minimal disturbance to the soil, so no cultivation (ploughing). The wines have been described as having a burgundy character, with good structure and texture and great length on the palate.