Some are calling the Hawke's Bay wine vintage of 2013 the best ever, a once-in-a-lifetime vintage created by
an exceptional summer. Roger Moroney asked Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association chairman Nicholas Buck what the stunning vintage meant to the wine industry and the region.
1. The latest vintage has grabbed plenty of accolades already. Could it be the best we have had and out of 10, what would you give it?
The 2013 wine growing season is certainly a 10 out of 10 vintage for Hawke's Bay. The long, dry, settled summer provided ideal conditions and 2013 will undoubtedly produce some of the greatest wines in Hawke's Bay's wine history. Having said that, the extreme drought meant that vines still had to be carefully managed to reach their quality potential.
2. What does it mean both for Hawke's Bay's winemaking reputation and our export industry?
It's great news for both. Hawke's Bay is rapidly becoming recognised as a region capable of producing some of the world's finest full-bodied red wines.
This year will strengthen that position, as wineries take their top 2013s to market, both here in New Zealand, and off-shore.
3. Reds or whites - which will benefit from the "perfect season" the most?
Most seasons favour one wine type, or even one variety, over another. This year may well be unique in Hawke's Bay's history in that the quality is across the board - conditions meant that the potential was there to get excellent results with all grape varieties.
4. Does it make the task of the winemaker easier and how much does it raise the competitive stakes?
The cliche is that "wine's made in the vineyard", meaning that the better the season the easier it is in the winery. The trick in a year like 2013 is to resist the temptation to push things too far. It's about achieving balance and harmony in wines that in many cases will have unprecedented levels of ripeness, density and power.
5. It has been tough going for some wineries in recent years - does a vintage like this have a major impact on their balance sheets?
Many wineries have wanted to make as much 2013 wine as possible. Therefore the short-term effect is actually increased outlay. The flip-side is when they come to sell those wines the consumer demand is also high. At Te Mata Estate, our phone's been ringing off the hook since February with people looking to secure 2013s. I was saying "Look, we haven't even picked the grapes yet!". Some 2013 wines will be released as early as June, while some of the best will be two years in the making - but the demand is already there. I was in Tauranga for a wine tasting last week, and the bloke filling my car at the petrol station saw the case of Te Mata Estate on my back seat and said "I can't wait for those 2013 Hawke's Bay chardonnays to be released."