Hawke’s Bay has been named a Great Wine Capital of the world, a global network of the world’s 12 greatest wine regions, including Bordeaux, Bilbao and Napa Valley.
Hawke’s Bay’s selection as the 12th great wine region of the world comes after about 10% to 15% of its viticultural sector suffered damage in Cyclone Gabrielle and is struggling to get back on its feet.
The Great Wine Capitals Global Network was already providing support and information to cyclone-affected wineries and the honour would lift the spirits of wine growers, and allow Hawke’s Bay to leverage international expertise, resources and support from the cream of the global wine industry, a press release from Hawke’s Bay Tourism said.
It will also lift the region’s $620 million tourism sector, which also took a hit in the aftermath of Gabrielle, by encouraging people back to enjoy long lunches, cellar door visits and cellar door cycle tours.
Hawke’s Bay produces 40,000 tonnes of grapes and is home to more than 200 vineyards, 125 wine producers and 30 cellar doors and its industry contributes $300 million in direct revenue to the local economy and contributes $156 million to GDP.
Admission to the programme is serious business. A stringent selection process takes place that examines the region’s wine growing industry, its history, wine tourism, educational opportunities, business and travel and the cities and region itself, says HB Tourism chief Hamish Saxton.
“Hawke’s Bay’s inclusion as one of just 12 great wine capitals of the world is of regional and national significance. it is recognition that Hawke’s Bay wines are among the world’s best and that our nation’s wine-growing industry, while still young, offers quality to rival the world’s oldest.”
Hawke’s Bay attempted to gain entry in 2009, but the population did not meet the requirements of 250,000 at the time, a rule that has since been relaxed.
Instead, Marlborough was admitted as the 9th member back then, as the biggest wine-growing region in the country, also incorporating Canterbury, Waipara Valley and Central Otago. Its membership lapsed after the Christchurch Earthquake, as it no longer met the criteria. The network only admits one region per country at a time.
The application was made by Hawke’s Bay Tourism on behalf of Hawke’s Bay Wine Growers, Hastings District Council, Napier City Council, Hawke’s Bay Airport and EIT/Te Pukenga, which outlined the benefits the region could bring to the network. Membership reportedly costs $31,000 a year.
The new achievement would position Hawke’s Bay as unique in New Zealand and the world and was an accolade to the climate, soils and innovation of the region’s winemakers.
“It is a true legacy for the region and will continue to deliver benefits to industry, education, business and truism for the years to come,” Saxton said.
Saxton said membership will benefit all the wine regions of the country as wine tourists tended to hop from region to region.
President of the Adelaide, South Australia Great Wine Capitals steering committee said that to become a member meant a region had to possess something “truly great, above average, excellent in a global context.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Hawke’s Bay and the twin cities of Napier and Hastings to our esteemed network. The quality of the wines from this region, their international recognition and unwavering commitment to excellence in grape and wine production, sustainable tourism and education was evident and saw them unanimously voted in by our existing 11 network members.”
Members did not see themselves as competitors and worked together in a sport of cooperation to support and learn from each other, as well as to continue to “lift the bar”, she said.
Hawke’s Bay Wine chair, Sally Duncan said the passion and persistence of the wine community had propelled the region to sit alongside the best in the world.
The other 11 Great Wine Capitals are Adelaide (Australia), Bilbao (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Cape Town (South Africa), Lausanne (Switzerland), Mainz (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), Napa Valley (USA), Valparaiso/Casablanca Valley (Chile) and Verona (Italy).
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BayBuzz has produced the definitive social history of winemaking in Hawke’s Bay in a richly illustrated coffee table book written by Mark Sweet, Wine: Stories from Hawke’s Bay, which can be purchased online here and in local bookstores and wine cellars.