Bridge Pa Triangle Wine District

Vineyard in the Bridge Pa Wine District (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

After the recent Classic Reds symposium in Hawke’s Bay, I was invited to join a group of winemakers who were promoting the recently re-branded Bridge Pa Triangle Wine District subregion of Hawke’s Bay.

Bridge Pa Triangle is an area covering around 2,000 hectares, significantly larger than the more aggressively promoted and adjacent Gimblett Gravels area, which covers 800-hectares. Bridge Pa Triangle; on the western side of the Heretaunga Plains and bordered by Maraekakaho Road, State Highway 50 and Ngatarawa Road; boasts the largest concentration of vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. The organisation currently has eleven winery members and seven grape growers, although many of the winery members also make wines from grapes sourced outside the Bridge Pa Triangle area.

What soil and climate differences distinguish Bridge Pa Triangle from its next door neighbour, Gimblett gravels? The soils are slightly more fertile than those of Gimblett Gravels. They comprise a 30-50 centimetre layer of sandy silt overlying red metal gravels. Because they are so well-drained irrigation is essential, as it is on Gimblett Gravels.

Soil temperatures are warmer in Gimblett Gravels than they are in Bridge Pa Triangle because a proliferation of large, round river boulders retain heat extending the daily growing period. Vines in Gimblett Gravels generally ripen a week or so before the Bridge Pa Triangle. Michael Cooper quotes Sileni (in the heart of the Bridge Pa Triangle) winemaker, Grant Edmonds, in his Wine Atlas of New Zealand,

“In a hot, dry season we may perform better than Gimblett Gravels but in a cooler year they’ll have the advantage.”

I failed to find any significant differences between the Bridge Pa Triangle white wines when compared to those of Gimblett gravels, but the reds did possess something of a subregional character. In general terms, Gimblett Gravels reds seemed to be more intense, riper and with brighter fruit flavours than those from Bridge Pa Triangle, which were often richer and more savoury with softer, rounder textures and a more savoury influence.

Few of the Bridge Pa Triangle wines featured their subregion on the front label. That may be because they have only just begun to strut their subregional identity but it is clearly a critically important strategy if they want to put Bridge Pa Triangle on the map.

Wineries represented at the Bridge Pa Triangle promotion were:

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