Why Gimblett Gravels is important to New Zealand Wines
The expression of a wine is truly about its terroir, its sense of place. Sometimes it takes a while and a coincidence to figure out what that terroir is…as is the case in Hawke’s Bay, on the North Island of New Zealand, specifically in Gimblett Gravels.
Before 1867, the region was comprised of loamy soil that holds moisture and encourages vigorous crop growth. This type of soil produces prolific grape vines that don’t produce great wines. Then came the great flood in 1867 that changed the course of the Ngaruroro River, which laid down the Gimblett Gravels where the loamy soil once ruled.
For more than 100 years after the flood, this land appeared to be unusable as even the sheep couldn’t graze here, and nothing would grow. The once loamy, moist soil was now dry and gravelly. Some irrigation is needed because of the arid conditions. Terrible for most things, but perfect for growing vines…very much like the gravelly soils of the left bank of Bordeaux, that rather famous French wine region!
Even into the 1980s, the wine industry had not yet emerged in the Gimblett Gravels terroir. That is when a concrete company bought some of the land to use the gravel to make roads. Thankfully, a few winemakers had also discovered this terroir and purchased some land a few years before, in 1981. The winemakers banded together and finally persuaded the local government that the best use for this land was for vineyards.
Finally, in the early 1990s, the Gimblett Gravels terroir began to be used specifically for growing grapes and producing the Bordeaux varietals for which it is now famous. The weather in Hawke’s Bay is also some of the best in New Zealand…warm sunny summer days with cooling ocean breezes.
Some New Zealand Reds from Gimblett Gravels
Two Gimblett Gravels producers that I visited were Te Awa and Craggy Range. Of the two, I preferred the wines of Te Awa, specifically their Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc dominant “Right Bank” Bordeaux blend, using Gimblett Gravels fruit. I brought home the 2010 “Ariki” that is currently taking a long nap in my cellar.
All of their wines are single vineyard and include a rosé, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Syrah and the Bordeaux varietals with various blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Te Awa is located in the midst of the Gimblett Gravels growing region and has a lovely patio and restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine.
Craggy Range has a beautiful setting, with views of the Te Mata peak, luxurious cottages and the world class Terroir restaurant. Their wines include a rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling as well as the Bordeaux blends, Syrah and Pinot Noir, all single vineyard.
Terroir Restaurant at Craggy Range
The expansive and impressive Craggy Range Winery
After visiting the wineries, a beautiful drive to the coastline was in order. What a spectacular view awaited!
Kidnapper Cliffs, above Hawke’s Bay
©2014 Christine Humphrey