Hawke’s Bay ‘one of the great Chardonnay regions of the world’

Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand has risen up the ranks and is now “one of the great Chardonnay regions of the world”, according to Hugh Crichton of Vidal Estate.

Hugh Crichton of Vidal Estate believes Hawke’s Bay is one of the world’s great Chardonnay regions

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to New Zealand, Crichton, chief winemaker at Vidal Estate in Hawke’s Bay, said:

“Hawke’s Bay produces 30% of all New Zealand Chardonnay and I like to think that we produce the best. The world’s great Chardonnays come from cooler climates. We have a climate that benefits from the cooling effect of the ocean, so are able to maintain acidity alongside richness and concentration of fruit.

“Good Chardonnay is about strength and power. Styles further south in New Zealand are more linear and Chablis-esque, while those from Hawke’s Bay are richer.

“We’re picking earlier to maintain acidity and attain lower alcohol levels and are ageing our Chardonnays almost entirely in French oak now, meaning they evolve fantastically well.

“Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is beating good grand crus from Burgundy in blind tastings. I believe it is now one of the great Chardonnay regions of the world as the wines are able to retain their elegance and freshness.”

But while Chardonnays from the region are piquing the interest of the press, very little is exported abroad at the moment.

“It’s important we concentrate on quality not quantity in Hawke’s Bay as we don’t want it to become too big and commercial.

“Less than 20% of Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is exported so the word hasn’t fully gotten out yet. We’re still in the early stages of taking these wines to the market.

“A lot of people are talking about New Zealand Chardonnay, but we’re still only just getting over the hump of it not being Sauvignon Blanc,” Crichton said.

“People are flabbergasted by the value – it’s my hope and expectation that the price of these wines will rise to reflect their quality.

“I’m confident that they can command a premium, which will allow us to invest more in our vineyards. People are telling us to put our prices up. I think we should price Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay more highly and market them as an affordable alternative to grand cru Burgundy,” he added.

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