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Hawke's Bay delights overseas wine buyers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Four internationally renowned wine sommeliers have been in Hawke's Bay this week to deepen their knowledge of local wines, and all have left with surprise finds to add to the lists of the hotels, restaurants and wine bars they buy for.

Three Australian sommeliers visited the region together, Andrew Phillpot, from the Press Club in Melbourne, Patrick White of Otto Ristorante, Sydney and Matt Swieboda, co-owner of Sydney wine bar, Love, Tilly Devine. They were followed by Ronan Sayburn, Master Sommelier and director of wines and spirits for the Hotel du Vin Group of 14 luxury boutique hotels in United Kingdom.

All four were given a regional tasting presentation by Hawke's Bay Winegrowers Inc., and visited a number of wineries.

It was the Australians first visit to the region and all were impressed and surprised at some of what they discovered here. In particular, they enthused over the white wines of the region, with the delicate citrus minerality of Chardonnays impressing them.

"We don't hear about or get shown Hawke's Bay Chardonnays by distributors and that's a surprise as the quality is here and now we want to see more," says Patrick White.

Ronan Sayburn also acknowledged the strength of local Chardonnays saying the move away from buttery oak styles of a decade ago to a style with more freshness and minerality, was to be applauded. It demonstrated well focused wine making based on careful selection of fruit, he said.

All sommeliers agreed that the region's Syrah was "fantastic" and "very well made". Mr Sayburn compared it to those of the top Rhone producers but added that Hawke's Bay Syrah was "a new world classic in its own category".

All agreed that their respective wine consumers were looking for a wider offering of wines from New Zealand beyond Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and felt that Hawke's Bay Syrah offered a strong point of difference for the region.

My Sayburn said he would be writing about his local discoveries on his blog site and expected that more Hawke's Bay wines would be seen on "serious" fine wine lists.

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