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Bridge Pa Triangle District Formed

By August 20, 2012No Comments
The Bridge Pa Triangle Wine District was launched at the end of July to promote one of the most important premium wine growing districts in New Zealand. This is a welcome recognition for the area which measures over 2,000 ha on the western side of the Heretaunga Plains near Hastings in Hawke’s Bay. The area has stood in the shadow of the Gimblett Gravels appellation which has become widely known and internationally acknowledged from the strong marketing work by the members of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association, which was formed in 2001. When the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association was formed, there were cries of elitism and expressions of disappointment that a small sub-region was being advanced over the whole Hawke’s Bay area, which was partly justified when considering the importance of a unified marketing programme for export.
There will be the inevitable comparisons between the two districts, and maybe pronouncements over the merits of one over the other. There will be some growers, producers and drinkers who will say the Gimblett Gravels wines are superior due to their greater iron core and drive, especially in warmer vintages. And others will prefer the softer, more evenly supple and more effusive aromatic characters of wines that seem to emanate from the Bridge Pa Triangle vineyards. But the importance of the formation of the Bridge Pa Triangle District is that it is another step in the defining of sub-regions and the acceptance of different wine styles and characters due to geology, geography, climate and a host of other factors, which taken further lead to the support of the concept of terroir.
Recognising Terroir from Sub-Regional Development?
With terroir in mind, there has always been a philosophical question on the interaction between the expression of terroir and the winemaker’s hand. Does winemaker signature obliterate the nuances of terroir, or can terroir be shown alongside and integral with house style. The idealists (mostly old world winegrowers) would take the former view, and the more pragmatic (dare I say the new world makers) would take the latter stance. I’m in the latter camp, but then I don’t claim expertise in the field! The point of this is that superiority of one district over another is a frame of reference and preference, and the early stage of the maturity of the vineyards and regions is such that there will be an overlap of styles, much of it due to the approach taken by the winemaker. I’ll be one who will enjoy and embrace the differences of the wines between the two sub-regions, and I’m sure that the wider audience will have fun comparing the wines. There will no doubt be some superb wines from both districts, as there already are. In the same vein, I can’t wait for the recognition of the cooler, coastal Te Awanga district in the near future. And who knows, the Dartmoor Valley, Havelock Hills and Bay View areas will become even more highlighted.
This process of recognition and formalising of sub-regions is an important step in defining the influences that shape our wines. Most of the wine growing regions in the country are undergoing this. Marlborough is easily separated into the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. Within the Wairau, there are the districts of Dillons Point, Southern Valleys, Renwick among others. Even the Awatere can be separated. Are the wines from Dashwood different to those further up the valley? Nelson has the Waimea Plains with its gravel influenced soils, better it is claimed than the clay Moutere soils for Sauvignon Blanc, though the latter geology is said to be better for Pinot Noir. Central Otago is easier to define its sub-regions, as they are more widely apart in distance. Around Lake Dunstan near Cromwell, is Lowburn different to Queensbury. And how different are the wines of Bendigo to neighbouring Northburn?
Bridge Pa Triangle Wine District
The winegrowers behind the formation of the district are Paul Ham of Alpha Domus, Stephen Daysh of Bridge Pa Vineyard, Grant Edmonds of Sileni, Steve Nathan of Salvare, and Peter Cowley of Te Mata. There are ten wineries and seven individual grapegrowers involved. Peter Cowley espouses the special nature of the area, which “is located on the old terraces of the Ngaruroro river which up to 10,000 years ago flowed out to sea between Maraekakaho and Roys Hill. The river deposited vast amounts of greywacke gravel known locally as red metal, which is covered in different areas by alluvium derived from loess, volcanic ash and greywacke”. The average Growing Degree Days over the last 16 years in the Bridge Pa Triangle is 1483, the same as the Medoc in Bordeaux and Coonawarra in South Australia.

I know there has been plenty of work involved in deciding on a suitable name for this sub-region, with ‘Redmetal Triangle’ and ‘Ngatarawa Triangle’ being put forward. ‘Bridge Pa Triangle’ is a good choice as the Bridge Pa is the cornerstone settlement and the gateway to the growing district when travelling to it from Hastings.

I applaud the formation of the Bridge Pa Triangle Wine District, and I trust the growers and winemakers in other areas of Hawke’s Bay recognise and appreciate it too, just as those in this newly formed group should recognise and promote the diversity and differences of the Gimblett Gravels, Te Awanga and the Dartmoor Valley sub regions of Hawke’s Bay. We will be all the richer for it.

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