NOT ONLY is Hawke's Bay one of New Zealand's oldest wine regions, it also has a "great wine community", says one local winemaker.

Rod McDonald came to the region in 1993, and worked at Vidal Estate where he was awarded 2006 New Zealand Winemaker of the year before he left and started Rod McDonald Wines.

He is the chairman at Hawke's Bay A&P Wine Awards and had been chairman of the Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Association for six years.

Mr McDonald said making wine was about harnessing what tastes people wanted. He had just returned from a wine trade show in Auckland on Thursday where he spoke with restaurateurs and wine list compilers to gauge which vintages were most popular.

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"Hawke's Bay chardonnay is still popular as well as sauvignon blanc made in Hawke's Bay - a drier wine compared with what Marlborough produces."

He said the people he met with were "the ones selling our wine and selling our stories".
"The thing about Hawke's Bay compared with other regions is it's New Zealand's oldest wine region.

"We just had a whole heap of people come from overseas and they said they've never seen people so united."

The winemaker said there was a "wine community" in Hawke's Bay, it had "lifted the people" and if he ever got stuck at harvest time he knew people would help him out.

He has three vineyards, one at Bridge Pa, another near the coast in Te Awanga and another in Maraekakaho.

With harvest just around the corner in a fortnight or so, Mr McDonald said between now and April was the most volatile period.

"The closer you get to ripeness there's some concern about what rain can do to the vines."

He said the more sugar there was, the greater the likelihood of getting mould.

"It's like if you have an apple and it's clean then it will just sit there for days and days, but it you smash it up to a pulp then it will get all mouldy."

Mr McDonald said the grapes swelled and contracted with temperature, which meant a cold snap or a downpour could split the skins as the thirsty plants drank the moisture.

Before harvest, the bunches of grapes were being weighed to assess how many grapes there would be. Bunches could weigh as little as 1kg to as heavy as 5kg.

The less fruit on the bunch the more intense the flavour, so the varieties could vary, he said.

He also said despite expecting a hot and dry summer, there was some rain and the season had been reasonably settled.

"We've been running behind all season but we had an amazing week last week, so that moved things up a bit."