While winemakers, writers, and lovers of pinot noir, were last week celebrating the success of the great red wine of Burgundy in New Zealand, particularly in the deep south, producers and lovers of the other reds had something to cheer about too.
In Hawke's Bay, arguably the red wine (excluding pinot) capital of New Zealand, plans were announced for two multimillion-dollar wineries and it was confirmed a third, the former Corbans/ Montana plant, has been has been re- born as a contract winemaking facility.
The new wineries will be built by Villa Maria, which already has three in Hawke's Bay (Te Awa, Esk Valley and Vidals) and by the Delegats Group, which owns Oyster Bay and recently bought the ailing Matariki winery, increasing its already substantial vineyard holdings in the Bay.
The Delegats winery will be built to the west of Hastings and the Villa Maria plant next to the existing Te Awa winery on the Gimblett Gravels.
Sir George Fistonich, who owns Villa, says his new winery will be run independently of the company's other Hawke's Bay plants and will process grapes for the parent company, which has 400 hectares planted within 10km of the site.
"It makes sense - from a quality and environmental point of view - to process here rather than truck the grapes up to Auckland," he says.
Meantime, Rod McDonald, formerly a whizzkid winemaker at Vidals, is producing his own and making other wines under contract at the former Corbans/Montana plant (valued at $8m) which has been purchased by a group of Hawke's Bay investors.
Why the sudden burst of activity?
Sir George provides the clue when he says, speaking particularly of the Gimblett Gravels: "We have a fair bit of demand for red wine from this area."
Truth is, there is a fair bit of demand, if that is how you want to put it, for red wines in general, but particular for the varieties produced in Hawke's Bay.
This is confirmed by researchers from the University of Adelaide, which has just compiled what it is calling the first- ever catalogue of the world's wine grape regions and varieties, that not only reveals which are the most widely planted grapes around the world, but also charts changing trends in consumer behaviour.
Twenty years ago, for instance, the most widely grown grape was a white wine variety from Spain called airen. Now it's cabernet sauvignon, which accounts for 6.3 per cent of the market, with merlot (5.81 per cent) and tempranillo (5.05 per cent) close behind.
In total red grapes now account for 55 per cent or more of the world's total crop and most of them in the top 10, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo are among the reds for which Hawke's Bay is known.
Others, also in the top 10, include syrah (4.03 per cent of the market), grenache (4.01 per cent) and to a much lesser extent pinot noir (1.88 per cent of the market). Just for the record: the most commonly planted white is still arien (5.48 per cent of the market), followed by chardonnay (4.32 per cent), sauvignon blanc (2.39 per cent) and trebbiano toscano (2.39 per cent).
Some Hawke's Bay reds to try:
Quarter Acre 2011 Hawke's Bay Merlot Malbec, $29.95
Made by Rod McDonald under one of his own labels. It's rich and creamy with lovely rich red spicy plum flavours. Try also the stunning syrah from the same vintage if it's still available.
Squawking Magpie 2011 Stoned Crow Syrah, $34
I am not about to disagree with Australian Master of Wine Andrew Caillard who called this "an utterly delicious wine" and gave it 96 points out of 100 at the annual Gimblett Gravels reds tasting. Black cherries, berries, aniseed and liquorice.
Esk Valley 2012 Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet Sauvigon Malbec, $23
The cheaper version of the blend for which Esk Valley is well known. And off the Gimblett Gravels, too. A beautifully balanced mix of florals, berries, currants and plums that's built to charm the palate. And succeeds.
- The Southland Times