Hawkes Bay, NZ

Geoff Kelly compiled this assessment

Vintage Ratings for the last 10 years in Hawkes Bay – for discussion:

2009: 6 – 9 Variable summer,  wet patch starting 28 Feb.,  some hassles for chardonnay.  Then March cooler than ideal,  merlots good to great but some cabernets fell behind.  April better for reds,  like 2008 some report better cabernet,  others report best merlot ever,  so hard to generalise.  The best of the Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends may match or even exceed 2007.  Persistence of leafyness in some cabernets and syrahs reported,  even some Gimblett Gravels,  a worry.  Bit early yet,  so wider span.
2008 5 – 7 Spring frosts,  varying impact,  warm dryish summer but easterlies dominant = humidity.  So difficult vintage,  uneven ripening and conflicting reports,  some report good cabernet but on average merlots better physiological maturity.  Syrah quality localised,  some very good in ’07 style from Triangle area.  No Reserve / top tier wines from some wineries due to green notes,  but perhaps like 05 & ’06 will be occasional notable exceptions.
2007 7 – 9+ Average temperatures but very dry season (driest 10 years),  near-perfect for many sites,  with full physiological maturity achievable at attractive (13.5%) alcohols in many appropriately-cropped reds.  Syrahs soft and rich,  but perhaps not as aromatic as best ’05 / ’06.  Fine whites too.  May end up best vintage of decade.
2006 6 – 8+ Warmest year of decade,  localised / unpredictable rain as in March 2005 but not as heavy,  some superb wines e.g. Church Road & Villa surpass 2005 in Hawkes Bay blends.  The best syrahs including Trinity Homage,  Villa and Church Road may be the most powerful of decade (9).  Many reds fractionally lighter than best 2005s,  described as fragrant,  ripe and stylish.  Some fine chardonnays.
2005 6 – 8+ Best excellent,  but patch-wise rain (up to 80mm near Roy’s Hill 18 March) significantly reduced final quality for some growers,  despite dry subsequently.  Nonetheless the top reds and particularly cabernet-dominant from selected wineries inc. Church Road exceptional.  Syrahs aromatic and fragrant.  Score more for better wines,  some average.  Critical selection needed for cellaring.
2004 4 – 6+ Second coolest vintage of decade,  but great Indian summer.  Best Gimblett Gravels reds fragrant and attractive (7),  but red fruits more than black.  Beyond Gravels,  many leafy reds developing too rapidly.  Conversely,  some stunning whites,  marvellous chardonnays (9) and gewurzs !
2003 2 – 4 For many growers,  severe and widespread frost 5 Oct. dominated the coolish,  dry but difficult season to follow.  Small crops,  but some reasonably good medium-weight red wines.
2002 7 – 9 Modest early season and damp early summer,  then great Indian autumn gave best quality and quantity vintage since 1998,  but high alcohols – referred to locally by some as the Californian vintage.  At best superb reds,  but many too big.  Not the technical knowledge then as now,  but the best cellaring well.  Some whites also too big.
2001 3 – 5 Widespread frost 20 Nov,  difficult summer,  coolest year of decade but not good for chardonnay even so.  Some settled spells March / April but botrytis pressure,  uneven ripening,  mostly a small crop of lean red wines,  now near their peak,  but some better where viticulture exceptional.
2000 6 – 8 As for Bordeaux,  not a perfectly dry season (70 mm 9 & 10 April) yet where viticulture good a plentiful and stylish vintage,  with very good wines if cropping rates were conservative.  Reasonable alcohols,  and Bordeaux style in the best blends too.  Score given is more the better wines.
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