2014 Regional Vintage Report HAWKE'S BAY

Hawke’s Bay 2014 “excellent” vintage sets smiles and excitement...
It’s said that smiles are contagious; Mother Nature smiled on the Hawke’s Bay wine industry for the second season in a row, and smiles are broad on the faces of vine to wine players who are reporting that while different, this year’s vintage is on a par with that of 2013, cited by many as “the vintage of the century”.

“We’re over the moon,” says Nicholas Buck, chair of Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers and managing director of Te Mata Estate Winery.  “We’ve now had two months to assess the wine and it’s looking extremely good, very encouraging.  After our wonderful 2013, we’d said to ourselves that if we had an average 2014 we’d be happy.  What we got is very significantly better.”

He concedes that while it is early days, the 2014 wines are presenting as generally soft, rounded with plenty of tannin and structure.

Clearview Estate Winery winemaker Tim Turvey agrees.  He lists the fruit from 2014 as being in the top five of his thirty vintages; alongside that of 2013.  “The flavours are concentrated; just brilliant. There’s a good PH acid balance along with high brix and fruit ripe tropical flavours.” 

Both are looking forward to seeing how wines from the two cracker vintages fare against each other.  Buck suspects the 2013s will be longer lived wines with qualities valued by wine critics, while the forward fruit oriented 2014s will sit better with the public.  “It’s going to be great to pitch them against each other for years to come,” he predicts.

Turvey is also buoyed by the yield, citing 2014 as the biggest ever for the coastal vineyard and winery operation. 

It was also an early vintage for most.  Almost all growers had completed harvest around two weeks earlier than average, which was fortuitous as a band of continuous wet descended at what would normally be the critical end of harvest period.

Mother Nature had earlier shown her generosity with spells of hot and dry, plus intermittent rain that kept vines in high health.  A settled autumn then provided perfect ripening conditions, leading to the earlier than usual and compressed harvest.

While official figures are yet to be confirmed by NZ Winegrower, most locals are picking it will be up on the past few years.  Xan Harding, deputy chair of HBWG and grape grower from Black Bridge Estate, estimates the tonnage will be around 45,000, equating to around 8 tonnes per hectare from the country’s second largest wine region.

Buck says that anecdotally this vintage was high yielding but that also there were areas reporting average or even below volumes on previous years.  Likewise for the key drivers by volume for the region – Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, there are mixed  reports on quantity -  Merlot faring pretty well, Chardonnay average and a very significant increase for the more vigorous Sauvignon Blanc.

Two year-on-year very positive vintages have brought renewed enthusiasm and excitement to the local industry, Buck believes.  “Those that were previously down at the mouth are now decidedly upbeat and the degree of enthusiasm is encouraging.  People are talking about business growth and while there’s lots of hard work to be done, the excitement is fantastic to see.”

Buck says the commitment of 17 Hawke’s Bay wineries to a three-year collaborative marketing programme into China is part of that hard work.  “Wineries are embracing the programme as a way of telling their story and getting their great wines in front of the marketplace.”

So does the region stand to strike a hat trick?  Will 2015 be another that rates amongst the top vintages?  There is quiet confidence that the early warm weather experienced before Christmas 2013 and vines largely unstressed with no major health pressure, has set the crop up well for 2015, although as always, Mother Nature will control how big the smiles will ultimately be.

For further information contact:
James Medina, Executive Officer
Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc.
Phone 876 3418 

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