Bordeaux, Napa Valley, and now… Hawke’s Bay. Photo / Paul Taylor
Hawke’s Bay winemakers say “the timing could not be better” for the area be recognised as one of the 12 best wine regions across the world.
On Tuesday, Hawke’s Bay became the first wine region in the country – ahead of Marlborough and Central Otago – and only the 12th in the world to be given the title of a Great Wine Capital.
The Great Wine Capitals Global Network features 11 of the very best wine regions around the globe, including Bordeaux (France), Napa Valley (US), Bilbao (Spain) and Adelaide (Australia).
Hawke’s Bay is now the 12th Great Wine Capital and the newest member of that elite network, following a stringent selection and voting process.
It is hoped the international recognition will translate to a boost in wine tourism to the region.
Eskdale’s Linden Estate Winery was hit hard by Cyclone Gabrielle in February, and winemaker Alex Hendry said it was fantastic recognition following a tough period.
“All of the wineries haven’t been through the same catastrophe as the one we are dealing with here, but for them as well, the timing could not be better,” he said.
“This couldn’t be a better thing for helping the region grow and to sustain what we do and hopefully [means we can] look at [growing] exports and tourism as well – it is fantastic.”
He said Hawke’s Bay always had “quite idealistic winemakers” who placed quality above volume.
“So, sometimes it can be hard as a region to market ourselves,” he said, compared to other regions which produce more wine.
Linden Estate plans to re-open its cellar door in a matter of months and is also in the process of clearing and rebuilding damaged vineyard blocks from the cyclone in time for next year’s harvest.
Hawke’s Bay is traditionally best known for its reds (such as merlot and syrah) and, in more recent years, has been gathering an international reputation for its chardonnay.
There are currently over 200 vineyards and 125 wine producers in the Bay, which is the country’s oldest wine-growing region.
Craggy Range near Havelock North was named the best vineyard in Australasia in 2021. Their chief winemaker Julian Grounds said it had been a tough period for many wineries following the cyclone and this recognition should “garner a lot of attention” for wine tourism.
“I think it is recognition for what makes this place special for growing wine, and for us as a brand, for why we decided to base ourselves in Hawke’s Bay, and we have always been huge believers in the quality of the wine in the region.”
He also said being part of the global network should create invaluable opportunities to work with other top winemakers overseas.
Radburnd Cellars is looking to relocate its winery to Havelock North after being severely flooded in Bay View. Owner Kate Radburnd said the announcement recognised “the diversity and depth of our wine industry here”.
“We are rich in varieties and styles, and it can only be positive for Hawke’s Bay.”
Lauren Swift, owner of Haumoana-based Swift Wines, said she hoped it would translate to a boost in wine tourism to the region.
She said on top of the reds and chardonnays which Hawke’s Bay was well-known for, the region was also doing very well with its alternative wine varieties such as albarino, chenin and gamaret, which were all “on-trend”.
“Internationally, it is probably Marlborough and Central Otago [which receive more recognition], so it is really nice for us to get more of a look in.”
Great Wine Capitals Global Network managing director Catherine Leparmentier Dayot said she was delighted to have Hawke’s Bay join the global network.
“The quality of the wines from this region, their international recognition and the destination’s commitment to sustainable tourism are perfectly in line with our values and fully justify its membership.
“I am convinced that the know-how and skills of the local actors will bring a lot to our co-operation programmes and I am eager to start exchanging with them.”
Hawke’s Bay Tourism CEO Hamish Saxton said the announcement was of “national significance”.
“Cyclone Gabrielle may have dealt us a blow, but this recognition shows that Hawke’s Bay is still the top-quality wine destination it always was,” he said.
“It is recognition that Hawke’s Bay wines are among the world’s best and that our nation’s wine-growing industry, while still young, offers quality to rival the world’s oldest.”
The wine industry generates an estimated $300 million of direct revenue to the Hawke’s Bay economy each year.