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The successful wines are not confined to those on limestone. At Porangahau close to the east coast of Central Hawke’s Bay, the Mouats have established a substantial vineyard on their Mangaorapa Station. Part of their farm has a soil derived from argillite that is free draining but with good moisture retention. Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes from here have established an excellent reputation. The 2600-hectare station has 175 hectares of argillite soils and it looks as though more of these may be developed for viticulture and financed through sale of some of the remaining land.
For more than a decade, two of the most respected and experienced winemakers in Hawke’s Bay – John Hancock and Alan Limmer – have been enthusiastic about the potential of Central Hawke’s Bay.
I have seen some outstanding Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Riesling among some of their experimental wines. Absolutely first rate – examples you would rarely encounter within New Zealand. So the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.
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In one sense it is unproductive to think of Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa as separate wine regions, even though their cores are over 200 kilometres apart. They are analogous because both are in the lea of ranges to their west and sheltered from the prevailing west-to-east weather systems responsible for most of New Zealand’s rainfall. Both regions also have pockets of land that are protected from easterly maritime conditions. Parts of Central Hawke’s Bay have climatic conditions that are very similar to the Wairarapa further south.
It may be more appropriate to consider Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa as two viticultural nodes with a huge number of sites between them, each with distinctive natural environments. Many outstanding wines will emerge from well-chosen sites within such localities. Micro-environments in this eastern belt are sufficiently distinctive from the rest of the North Island to suggest that selected sites will produce distinctive wines. After all, the villages and communes of Chablis and Givry are more than 300 kilometres apart, but they are both included in the region of Burgundy.