Gimblett Gravels measures up well

For leading international wine writers such as the UK's Tim Atkin, one of the eagerly awaited visits during a two-day expedition through the vineyards and wineries of Hawke's Bay last week was to the Gimblett Gravels region.

Mr Atkin has been a flag waver for Hawke's Bay syrah for several years now, and was keen to see the vines, and the region, which had stirred up so much international acclaim.

The 16 international wine media guests who took part in the Hawke's Bay - Our World in Your Glass visit, which was hosted by Hawke's Bay Winegrowers, took part in a blind tasting of syrahs which included a dozen 2009 and 2010 vintages, as well as a selection of benchmark international syrahs from Australia and France.

The Gimblett Gravels varieties more than measured up against the international leaders and drew high praise from the global guests.

Mr Atkin summed it up by saying the quality was so high it was "surprisingly hard" to identify which were Gimblett Gravels types against the top French and Australian types. Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association chairman Tony Bish was understandably delighted at the response and enthusiasm shown.

Such tastings and detailed evaluations provided valuable insights for the winegrowers "as well as a fantastic opportunity to showcase their wines to a set of very influential international wine media," Mr Bish said.

After tasting the group were taken on a tour of Stonecroft Winery which is home to the country's oldest syrah vines and later treated to a Kiwi barbecue of salmon and lamb, accompanied by a selection of Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay and blended reds.

Mr Atkin reckoned the rate of change in the Bay wine industry was higher than anywhere else in the country. "You've got younger people driving the pace of change, challenging the paradigm. Very exciting."

The guests were in New Zealand to attend the three-yearly Pinot Noir Conference in Wellington and Hawke's Bay Winegrowers organised the two-day "taster" in the Bay as an entree to the events in the capital.

Cycles rides and Kiwi breakfasts were among the fare, along with meetings with winemakers.

A debate chaired by Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule and staged at the Mission Estate chapel/conference room was also on the agenda and featured two teams, made up of Rod Easthope from Easthope Winemakers, Tony Bish from Sacred Hill, Peter Cowley from Te Mata Estate and Grant Edmonds from Sileni Estate. They debated the merits of syrah and Bay blends, with the international guests each tasting their way through the debate.

Hawke's Bay Winegrowers executive officer Lyn Bevin said the visit was invaluable in getting the good word out about not just Hawke's Bay's leading wines but also the region itself.

She said the 12 events staged all showcased the strengths of the Bay. Canadian wine writer David Lawrason described the advances in wine quality in the past 20 years since he'd last visited as "phenomenal".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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