New Zealand is known primarily as a cool climate winemaking country. However certain regions, like Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of the north island, can support intermediate varietals. Climatically speaking Hawkes Bay is diverse, spanning the cool to very warm spectrum, thanks to the influence of local topography: the coast is moderated by cooling easterly sea breezes, inland vineyards enjoy warm winds called the Fohn, south-western hill sites on the region’s outskirts experience weather that is cool and dry. Matching vineyard sites to grape varieties gives Hawkes Bay producers the ability rarely seen in other regions to successfully grow a wide array of grape varieties.
The Gimblett Gravels is an appellation of Hawkes Bay, and is a gem in the New Zealand wine-growing landscape. Its stony soils enable winemakers to produce superb Bordeaux style wines. These wines are the focus at Mills Reef Winery. The award-winning winemaking team is led by Tim Preston and Paul Dawick who apply their considerable talents to make Mills Reef wines what they are today.
“In terms of climate, Hawkes Bay is somewhat analogous to Bordeaux, but without quite as much afternoon heat during the peak of the ripening season owing to cooling sea breezes that begin by noon on most summer days. So while the area is too warm for growing Pinot Noir, it’s generally on the cool side for making wines from Bordeaux red varieties and Syrah. But in the Gimblett Gravels, situated barely 30 meters above sea level and less than ten miles inland, afternoon temperatures are routinely 1 to 3 degrees Celsius higher during the summer and fall. The area’s gravelly soils also play a critical role in ripening the fruit, warming up early in the spring and releasing stored-up heat at night during summer. This combination of factors helps late-ripening varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah achieve full maturity. The long, steady ripening produces wines with good density and aromatic complexity, along with the acid/tannin structure to support positive evolution in bottle.”Stephen Tanzer, vinous.com, March 2015