The north island region of Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's oldest wine region and second largest, boasting plenty of sunshine and a temperate climate producing plenty of robust, high-quality wines. These ideal conditions make this region New Zealand's capital of the full-bodied red wine, producing 88% of all Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah grapes.
That being said, Chardonnay stands tall here, delivering rich and complex wines that stand the age of time, yet drink beautiful young. They are opulent and mineral, with focused acidity that makes the wine seem like they go for an eternity. There is plenty here to offer Chardonnay fans the world over.
There are over 70 wineries and an abundance of cellar doors where you can discover these cracking Chardonnays alongside the world-class Bordeaux style red blends and cool climate, yet generous Syrah. There are also some excellent Pinots here that sit alongside some less common alternative varieties, such as Tempranillo, Touriga National, Malbec, and Marsanne.
A great place to start is Te Mata, one of New Zealand's oldest wineries, founded in 1896 and still one of its best. The Coleraine Bordeaux blend is recognised as one of the nation's finest wines. Head further inland to the Gimblett Gravels, a dry riverbed sub-region that's overflowing with fantastic wine. Well-draining soils and ancient riverbed gravels that retain heat to be released during the cool night, work together to produce intensely characterful reds that will subjugate you.
The consistent sunny conditions are ideal for outdoor activities, such as cycling or hiking the Te Mata Peak, which delivers exceptional views of the bay. The Waimarama beach and Redwood forest are also not to be missed, as is the Maraetotara Falls. And for the golfing tragic, don't miss a round at Cape Kidnappers.