Osawa wines

Hawke's Bay wines are well known and regarded in Japan, which along with China has become an important market for the region.

And one of the wineries now serving up fine wines to the expanding Japanese market is a recent addition to the Bay's vineyard landscape - in fact its first grapes were not arriving from the vines until 2008.

Its name tells you it is a crucial part of the Japanese market as well as the Hawke's Bay economy and the region's export business: Osawa Wines.

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This river terrace winery beside the Ngaruroro is effectively the culmination of a global search, and the realisation of a dream held by Taizo Osawa who has long appreciated fine wines, and whose ambition to create his own wines grew through the years.

So in 2004, he embarked on a journey.

A journey which took him from one side of the winemaking world to the other in pursuit of the land he needed to grow a string of grape varieties, and to produce very fine wines.

He arrived in New Zealand and that was that.

Well, not quite.

He ventured to Hawke's Bay, came across the Mangatahi Valley out Maraekakaho way and that, was that.

Mr Osawa was well aware of the Bay's winemaking prowess.

He was also well aware of its soil variances and diversity.

A year later he bought a large swathe of land from Craggy Range, having sought location advice from experts Gus Lawson and Dr David Jordan, and in 2006 the first vines were planted.

The land was there and the vines were sparking into life, and Mr Osawa's next move was to seek more top form, in the world of winemaking.

He made a call to the New Zealand Winemaker of the Year in 2006, Rod McDonald and he accepted the invitation to become their consultant winemaker.

"When I first met Mr Osawa it was very obvious he was driven to make wines that were of the highest quality," Rod said.

The Osawa vineyard was "perfectly situated" to produce high quality chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir - varieties where the balance of fragrance and acidity were all important.

"While we are making very different styles of wines, using fundamentally different techniques and philosophies, one of the most important considerations is that we always deliver the highest quality at each tier," Rod said.

"Sourcing all our fruit from a single vineyard allows us to manage quality from the beginning to the end of the process, and high quality fruit means less intervention during winemaking."

Mr Osawa's target was the burgeoning market in his homeland and the very first to emerge was a sauvignon blanc in 2008.

The second harvest in 2009 saw pinot noir, gewurztraminer, chardonnay, cabernet merlot, rose and sangiovese join the fold, and the following year Mr Osawa's passion for creating his own vineyard in Hawke's Bay, and determination to make fine wines, was rewarded when the first wine competition awards went the Osawa way.

In just seven vintages, Osawa Wines has picked up five trophies, 22 gold medals, 26 silver medals and 74 bronze medals.

Not bad for a newcomer to the winemaking landscape which also promotes nature-friendly sustainable winegrowing practices.

The winery produces a prestige collection, a winemaker's collection and the varietal "Flying Sheep" selection, and is now the third largest exporter of New Zealand wine to Japan - spreading the word about the fine wine which comes from Hawke's Bay.

Three years ago expansion saw Osawa wines begin to appear on the local market, where they can be found today.

Mr Osawa is clearly living the dream he had harboured for so many years.

CHECK OUT

Osawa Wines, Maraekakaho.

Try: Prestige Collection Noble Gewurztraminer, Prestige Collection Chardonnay, winemaker's Collection Pinot Noir.

Cellar Door: It's actually in Japan - but fine-wine shops stock the range and can be bought online

Contact:
wine@osawawines.co.nz