Abbey keeps it clean – Hawkes Bay Today

Abbey keeps it clean - Hawkes Bay Today

I took a drive our to 1769 Maraekakaho Road on Wednesday to see if I could corner Jan and Warren Haworth, owners of Abbey Cellars, one of the newest wine companies in Hawke's Bay.

I didn't think on being thrown a bucket, some secateurs and being quick marched down a row of riesling and told to "keep it clean!" They let me off the hook because i was wearing the completely wrong shoes. The ground was a bit boggy from the downpours we'd had on Monday and Tuesday, and the air was still heavy and threatening to rain.

Winemaker Emma Lowe had decided to get started on picking. It was all hands on deck to make sure that what Emma wants, Emma gets. This will be their second vintage of Riesling while their first vintage of reds wait in barrel to be released closer to Christmas.

Investing in grape land is a brace and risky undertaking, so the story behind Jan and Warren's journey into wine is to follow Haiawatha, Braveheart and Indiana Jones into the Temple of Trade Regulations, Marketing Mahem, Branding Brouhaha and Distribution Dramas.

Having purhcased Wayne Mudgway's 11ha horse stud in 2002, they quickly set about pulling out the fences and trees, and under the viticultural guidance of Stuart Devine, of Villa Maria fame, riesling, merlot, malbec, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc were planted.

"The Riesling is sitting at around 22 brix and we're hoping to get it all in today" says Jan. "The forecast is for more heavy rain and the fruit is just too delicate ot take anymore".

Both Warren and Jan are extremely particular about this variety, everything is hand picked and carefully handled.

"I told (the pickers) in our early morning pep talk that we wanted pristine fruit with no imperfections because our wine is a quality wine," drums Warren.

"We'll get about 10 tonnes from our 2ha crop this year," he says.

Jan pointed out that they'd deliberately lowered their yield to around 16 bunches per vine to maximise flavour concentration.

Just walking through the rows I am impressed by the clean fruit and compact bunches, no rot whatsoever. Then i remembered Jan mentioning that she'd gone through the whole block a couple of times over cutting out any substandard fruit.

The bones of a cellar door and winery are being put together, ready to open in a year or so.

Yvonne Lorkin, March 2006

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