In 1895 Italian viticulturist Romeo Braggato stated that Central Otago provided great potential for the growth of quality Pinot Noir grapes. He believed the special balance of factors would make the unique environment ideal for the task – in soil and temperature, sunshine and rainfall, the region could be a Pinot Noir paradise.
Between then and now this landscape has seen a number of changes as generations have first found their fortunes in gold and, later, with sheep farming. Now, over a century later, Braggato’s vision has become a reality.
Hawkshead makes the most of the Italian’s perceived assets, with the vineyard recognised both here in New Zealand and internationally for producing award winning wines.
While growing grapes at 45 degrees south latitude is right on the edge for viticulture the vineyard, ranging between 350 and 400 metres above sea level, enjoys maximum year-round sunshine and a 650mm average yearly rainfall.
The vineyard soils are mainly wind blown glacial deposits, overlaid with free draining alluvial schist and a varied amount with a thin layer of topsoil. Into this soil we have grown three Pinot Noir clones: 114, 667 & Abel.
A long dry autumn, accompanied by warm daylight temperatures, ensures slow ripening and intense flavour development for the high quality fruit. It’s this ripening process and long hanging time that allows the grapes to develop the elegance and complexity so typical for Gibbston Pinot Noir. The fruit is hand picked and all clones fermented separately, with harvest as late as early May in some years.