Fingers crossed for another great vintage

By Victoria White

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Chairman of Judges Warren Gibson was impressed with the range of styles at the Hawke's Bay A&P Bayley's wine awards. PHOTO/Richard Brimer.
Chairman of Judges Warren Gibson was impressed with the range of styles at the Hawke's Bay A&P Bayley's wine awards. PHOTO/Richard Brimer.

From Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, to Chardonnay, the range of wine styles recognised at the Hawke's Bay A&P Bayley's Wine Awards on Tuesday night impressed the panel of local, national, and international judges.

Chairman of judges was Trinity Hill chief winemaker Warren Gibson, who has been at Trinity Hill since it was established in 1997.

Mr Gibson said the awards, presented at a extravagant dinner on Tuesday night, showcased the "huge range of styles" of wine produced in Hawke's Bay.

"It was an excellent show just looking at the wine quality and in general it seemed to go very pleasingly," he said.

"It was basically a great year for the wine awards in terms of the wine quality," he said. "It was four very good seasons successively and from 2013 through to 16 all quite different seasons but all complimentary."

"[There's] probably no better chance to see a great range of excellent wine."

These awards were not his first foray into judging - for nearly 20 years he has been a regular judge at all of his country's major wine shows including being a regular "Cuisine" magazine panelist, and was an international guest judge of the National Wine Show of Australia (Canberra) in 2010.

While there were no specific trends which came from Tuesday's awards, Mr Gibson said there was a "massive spread" of producers who were recognised for their work.

"That would be a nice trend if that's the case, that the general wine quality across Hawke's Bay is very strong across a huge range of wineries, its not just one winery leading the pack," he said.

Of the wines presented to judges, Mr Gibson said chardonnay was a particularly strong class.

"I think Hawke's Bay chardonnay has come along in leaps and bounds in the last five years," he said, adding he felt it was a highlight of the show.

Although Hawke's Bay producers "always try and play the glass half full", he said wineries did need to work on promoting their individual products.

"Having that range of wine styles [in Hawke's Bay] is a strength, but also from a marketing point of view it can be a little more challenging," he said.

Although there was more than one variety the region championed, "you can't just get away with talking the Hawke's Bay story, you've got to really work on your own brand as well I think to push the success".

"We're brand New Zealand, we're brand Hawke's Bay, but also your winery brand is very important and building up some strength of your brand is very important," he said.

Now the awards were over, Mr Gibson was looking forward to seeing whether the region would produce another in a line of four great vintages.

However at this stage it was difficult to say: "I'd need a crystal ball for that one, we just work one month at a time, one week at a time, one day at a time."

Aside from the work in producing a great vintage - from fermentation to marketing, Mr Gibson said at the end of the day "you can't make great wine from bad grapes, but the weather is one thing we cant change."

"Ideally we'd like a warm and dry sort of summer and particularly autumn," he said, "but we make good wine in difficult seasons as well and that's equally important, that if you get some bad cards thrown at you you can still play your hand somehow."

He pointed to 2012, which was supposedly a terrible vintage. Producers had to promote the other wine produced that year which had a negative perception in the market, despite some of the chardonnays, and syrah's doing better in wine shows than their 2013 equivalents.

"There's a new vintage every year," he said, "so 2017, who knows."

"I've been working in Hawkes Bay for almost 20 vintages. There are some that are similar but there's never been two that are the same.

"If we could have one somewhere between one of the last four, but probably more like 2013 or 2014, that would be the most ideal."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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