Within Hawke’s Bay there are pockets of austere, gravelly soil perfectly suited to Bordeaux varieties. Gimblett Gravels, an 850-hectare region, is the warmest vineyard area in the country. Average summer temperatures are only a degree or two cooler than Napa’s Oakville district. The warmth is enhanced by rock beds over 90 feet deep which act as incubators at night, releasing heat absorbed from the sun during the day. The effect is a terroir in which Cabernet, and particularly Merlot, consistently achieve a level of ripeness seldom attainable elsewhere in New Zealand.
In the Gimblett Gravels region, Craggy Range has carved out the 100-hectare Gimblett Gravels Vineyard for red and white Bordeaux varieties and Syrah. The narrow-row vine architecture is planted to a very intensive density of between 1,400 and 2,100 vines per acre, with several plots trained low to the ground to benefit completely from the thermal conductivity and reflectiveness of the soils. Extensive deep soil preparations encourage deeply rooted vines to reach veins of sand, silt and clay immersed far into the gravel, and drip irrigation is applied only when required. Thirty-six varietal plots have been matched to the variations in depth and texture of the gravelly soils of the meandering old stream beds of the Ngaruroro River.