Hawke's Bay came under the global winemaking spotlight yesterday as 20 leading international trade and media representatives were treated to the region's finest wines and got to meet many of the people who created them.
Billed as the Hawke's Bay Wine Celebration and staged at the Masonic in Napier, the event hosted by Hawke's Bay Winegrowers was set up to take advantage of the influx of wine industry visitors who have arrived in the country for the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration, being staged on Thursday.
"We got them first, got them while they were fresh," said Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association executive officer James Medina as the participants savoured a taste of the finest local syrahs.
"It has gone really well and a lot of good contacts have been made. These people will take a lot of good things back with them."
Among the guests were leading lights across the international wine landscape, as well as leading New Zealand commentators.
Wendy Stanford and Dame Campbell arrived from the United States, Hamish Anderson from the UK/Ireland, Rebecca Leung from Hong Kong and Hawke's Bay's China contractor partner Fongyee Walker. A firm devotee of the Bay, she was all smiles and said it was great to be back.
Among the New Zealand line-up were local wine industry commentator Yvonne Lorkin and Auckland-based master sommelier Cameron Douglas.
"This has exceeded their expectations," Mr Douglas said. "It has opened their palates wide that Hawke's Bay is a very real source when it comes to syrah."
The exceptional 2013 vintage had sparked glowing remarks during an intensive "hot red" tasting and discussion of the region's syrah hosted by Warren Gibson, along with Hugh Crichton and Dr Alan Limmer.
"They have been more than pleasantly surprised and their expectations have certainly changed," Mr Douglas said.
"The future is very bright."
What had captured the tastes of the guests was that the 2013 syrahs had immediate drinkability, as well as the potential to age well.
He said it was testimony not only to the great vintage but also to the skills and passions of viticulturists and winemakers, and the Hawke's Bay region had rightly developed a leading international reputation for winemaking.
After a "great white long lunch," featuring chardonnay and local seafoods, the guests, along with members of the local winemaking fraternity, took part in a formal tasting of "bold blends" led by Peter Cowley, Steve Smith and Chris Scott, before a grand tasting dubbed "Icons of Hawke's Bay".
It was a showcase of the best of the best Hawke's Bay wines, which one delighted guest described as "superb".
"This has taken a lot of work and a lot of co-ordination to put on, and it has been a great opportunity to tell the Hawke's Bay winemaking story and to show why our wines are so special," Mr Medina said.