Saturday, 14 July 2012

Alistair Bowes : History of the wine industry in Hawke's Bay

The Early Days
Wine production and viticulture in New Zealand go back to colonial times when British Resident James Busby attempted to produce wine at Waitangi as early as 1836.
Several wineries in Hawke’s Bay have been in existence for more than 100 years, originally making wine inspired by French techniques. The most noteworthy of these estates are the Te Mata Estate, dating back to 1892, and the Mission Estate, the origin of wine in Hawke's Bay, tracing its origins back to French Catholic missionaries who brought vines to the area in 1851 to produce sacramental and table wine. The Mission's first commercial sale, of dry reds, is recorded in 1870.
Much of the early wine in the Hawke’s Bay region was rough wine fortified with additional alcohol, making it even rougher! Within a few decades, however, local farmers had become aware of French wines, and by 1900 a few were beginning to produce passable reds.
The modern wine industry has its origins in the dramatic changes in New Zealand agriculture brought about by Britain's entry into the European Economic Community in 1973. EEC membership meant an end to New Zealand's traditional pattern of trade in meat and dairy products, and pulled the rug from under the comfortable post-war New Zealand lifestyle, initiating a major reappraisal of the potential of viticulture.
Wines and Soil
Wine is generally produced in areas of dryish alluvial soils between Northland (36°S) and Central Otago (45°S), notably in Hawke's Bay, Martinborough, Nelson, the Wairau and Awatere valleys in Marlborough, and Canterbury.
During the viticulture boom of the 1970s and 1980s, areas previously considered as marginal pasture for stock were planted in vines, taking advantage of the low moisture and low soil fertility ideal for vines. Many of the current vineyards were established during this era, driven by the need of many farmers for an additional income.
Much of Hawke's Bay is alluvial plain, with a variety of soils suitable for viticulture. This diversity in soils supports a diversity of grape varieties, and thus a wide range of wines. Hawke's Bay arguably produces a wider range of wines than other areas.
Hawke's Bay has become widely known as New Zealand's centre for Bordeaux blend reds, and a major wine festival is devoted solely to these wines. On the other hand, of land employed for viticulture in Hawke's Bay, the greatest proportion is devoted to Chardonnay.
The Estates
At last count, Hawke's Bay supported twenty or so highly-evaluated wineries of varying scale. Probably the most notable and well-established are Mission Estate in Greenmeadows, and Te Mata Estate in Havelock North, and Esk Valley Estate in Bay View.
• Mission Estate
The original Mission Estate vineyards were located in Meeanee, near what is now Taradale, on land regularly subject to flooding from the nearby Tutaekuri River. Following a disastrous flood in 1897, a decision was taken to move, and the current site in Church Road against the hills behind Greenmeadows, was purchased. The first vines were planted on gentle terraced slopes at the southern end of the site, now used as the venue for the annual Mission Concert. In 1910, the entire operation, including major buildings, was transported to the new site.
Mission Estate is now the Hawke’s Bay region's largest winery, and has established a superior reputation in both domestic and overseas markets as a producer of wines of consistent quality and value for money.
• Te Mata Estate
The Te Mata Estate of today was originally part of Te Mata Station, established in 1854 by farmer John Chambers. Chambers' son Bernard had travelled in France and held an interest in viticulture. In the division of the property amongst the sons, Bernard received the Te Mata Estate homestead block, and in 1892 he began planting vines on slopes adjacent to the homestead. The current Te Mata Estate still employs these original vineyards in the production of its Coleraine, Awatea and Elston wines.
The property passed to new owners in 1919, and subsequently changed hands repeatedly over the years, until being purchased in 1978 by the current owners, the Bucks and the Morris's, two families forming the current company. The state of the property at the time left much to be desired, however the lure of the original brick cellars constructed in 1872, and the vineyards themselves, made for a very attractive purchase. The owners have since invested heavily in buildings designed by Ian Athfield to harmonise with the original architecture.
• Esk Valley Estate
Esk Valley Estate, established in 1933 under the name Glenvale by Englishman Robert Bird, is located at Bay View North of Napier. The enterprise expanded rapidly in the days of fortified wines to become a major player in the New Zealand market until the late 1970's, when the Esk Valley brand was established in an attempt to break away from the down-market fortified wine image, and move into premium table wines.
Over-production in the 1980s led to a wine price war in which Glenvale was a notable loser. The company was placed in receivership and subsequently purchased by the innovative George Fistonich, founder of Villa Maria Estate. It currently operates independently with its own vineyards and wine making specialists.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Alistair Bowes - History of the HB Wine Industry

Alistair Bowes - History of the HB Wine Industry

Alistair spoke on " the history of the Hawke’s Bay wine industry and the triumph of magnificent people over appalling Government interference."