News this week about changes to well-known producers in Hawke’s Bay has been unsettling to observers. It was announced on Wednesday that Gimblett Gravels pioneer Matariki went into receivership. The last few years have seen the Matariki and Aspire brands lose their way as market conditions became progressively tighter and competitive activity increase. Just recently I tasted Matariki wines at the latest Gimblett Gravels promotion in Wellington, the flagship ‘Quintology’ 2007 particularly appealing (click here to read my blog). The range of Matariki and Aspire wines included styles and varieties that added to the breadth of the output of the Gimblett Gravels and one hopes that there will be some sort of continuance.
Earlier, it was confirmed that Villa Maria had purchased the Te Awa vineyard and winery assets, including the Te Awa and Kidnapper Cliffs brands. This is a strong move for Villa Maria as they add a further 100 hectares of prime Gimblett Gravels land to their holdings, and take possession of a winery on site. The Te Awa brand is another well-established and respected one, and while the Kidnapper Cliffs label is relatively new, it has been extremely successful. I awarded it my ‘Winery of the Year’ at the end of 2011 based on the quality of the 2009 releases. (Click here to see.) It will be interesting to see if Villa Maria allow the Kidnapper Cliffs wines to continue in the direction they have been going with the Dry River and Pinot Noir winemaking influences having a part to play in their style. Equally important will be the future of the staff, the Te Awa team with much experience in the vineyard, and winemaker and a wealth of winemaking knowledge.
The former Corbans winery in Napier has been on the market following industry giant Pernod Ricard’s decision to consolidate its Hawke’s Bay operations at the Church Road winery in Taradale. Pernod Ricard withdrew from the Gisborne region in 2010, selling its large winery and brands to Indevin and Lion Nathan NZ, clearly indicating its growing focus on the Marlborough region. The Napier winery, zoned in industrial land has been the historical Hawkes’s Bay base for Corbans and Cottage block, and has produced many of the top wines of New Zealand over the years.
Changes such as these are inevitable as market conditions evolve, and there is an element of ‘survival of the fittest’ present. Many producers are finding pleasing success, and generally the outlook is positive with slowly growing business confidence. On a wider front, it is heartening to hear of the Foley Family Vineyards purchase of Grove Mill in Marlborough, and the work and investment being put into Te Kairanga in Martinborough by this company. I trust the outcome of these changes and developments will be good for the New Zealand wine scene in the long term.