Hawkes Bay has the warm climate of New Zealand’s North Island but the geography resembles regions in the South - i.e. an East Coast rain shadow that provides a dry, wide alluvial plain with varied microclimates and soil deposits. The prized spots are the free-draining stones of former riverbeds, with the sun-baked Gimblett Gravels being most famous. Here Cabernet ripens pretty consistently - unlike most of NZ - while forgiving Merlot and Chardonnay cruise to satisfying body and richness. But it’s still cooler than Australia, so Syrah in Hawkes Bay is more like a modern French style - medium-bodied with attractive black fruit and pepper/floral brightness.