Hello Napier!

After a weekend on planes, it was good to touch down finally in tiny Napier, even if the weather wasn't that inviting. I was here to take a look at the next vintages of one of newest, and most difficult to name, Exhibition wines - The Society's Exhibition Hawke's Bay Red.

The main purpose of the trip down under this time, was really to visit Australia (I'll fill you in on this leg of the trip later), but of course, if you're going to travel that far it would seem mad not to pop in on New Zealand. As well as visiting our Exhibition Hawke's Bay Red producers, my aim in New Zealand is always to find excellent new sauvignon blanc, see if styles are changing, and look for great value in any grape as New Zealand continues to experiment with different varietals.

New Zealand is also a great place for gossip; lots of the winemakers are pretty high profile and so travel widely, mixing a lot with winemakers from across the winemaking world.

Arriving in the rain…

Springtime in New Zealand Springtime in New Zealand
(Click to enlarge)

I left Heathrow on Friday in the early evening. Three flights later and give or take 11,700 miles travelled, I landed in time for supper in Napier, Hawke's Bay on Sunday.

Losing an entire weekend is often tempered by the wonderful panoramic views you get flying into New Zealand, and having timed this trip with the Kiwi spring, I had high hopes.

But flying in through low cloud it wasn't to be this time.

What's in a name….?

12 months ago we launched our first Exhibition red wine from Hawke's Bay. The original wine was from the excellent 2013 vintage and a great producer, Craggy Range, and really over-delivered in terms of quality for price. It also filled a little niche within the Kiwi range as a full-bodied red wine, among many elegant lighter pinots.

Matt Stafford - Craggy and Exhibition winemaker Matt Stafford - Craggy and Exhibition winemaker

But what to call it?

No one grape forms more that 80% of the wine - so a straight variety is out.

It's made from a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and cabernet franc which is really a bit of a mouthful if you try to get all that into the name!

However this is a typical Bordeaux blend, something that Hawke's Bay is renowned for, but to use the term 'Bordeaux blend', apart from possibly being misleading and/or actually not allowed by trading bodies, also seems somehow seems to underplay the importance of this wine's origin.

So where did that leave us?

  • Meritage? (A trademarked Napa-originated term for a wine with at least two 'Nobel' grapes in the blend)
  • Hermitage? (From the old practice of adding Rhône syrah to Bordeaux wines)
  • How about simply Red Wine?

In the end, we went for what we deemed to be the simplest approach, calling the wine the not-so-catchy 'Exhibition Hawke's Bay Red' whilst naming the two principal grapes on the front and listing the percentages of the full mix on the back label.

In the List copy - we use the slightly generic name and then hasten to reference the grapes used in the note. This must be done as there is no appellation 'law' as such and so a 'Hawke's Bay red' could be a pinot noir, syrah or cabernet either singularly or in any combination.

While on some level as your buyer I don't deliberate for long about what the wine is called, so long as it tastes brilliant, it is none-the-less important to get these things right -even when there isn't a perfect solution, especially for the less well-known wines. We do want to be clear about what a wine is and where it comes from as well as tempting you to try it, of course!

Suggestions on a postcard…and the 2014 vintage which has followed the original has been described by Jancis Robinson as 'nigh on perfect'!

Read more about our Exhibition Hawke's Bay Red and our interview with Craggy Range's Chairman, Terry Peabody >

Where to go next?

My Marlborough Marathon >

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Members' Comments (1)

"Craggy Range has a spectacular setting, and if anyone has the chance, they should arrange to eat at the winery. The food is outstanding, and enjoying good food and a glass of their premium wine "Le sol" while on the terrace is an experience not to be missed.

Dr Edwin R Nairn (26-Jan-2017)

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