“Terroir can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place,” which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product.” (Wikipedia) Its a term the French are very fond of when they attribute that certain “Je ne sais quoi” to the wines of the various wine growing regions or “appellations” in their beloved country.
In the New Zealand wine growing region of Hawkes Bay the terroir of the Gimlett Gravels is defined as “an area covering 800 hectares that is strictly determined by the gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860′s.” A precise area map can be found at the Gimlett Gravels Wingrowing District website. Essentially, the the sub-structure of the Gimlett Gravels area, just below the topsoil level, looks something like this gravel bank at Te Awhanga Beach on the coast a short distance to the east.
The Gimlett Gravels Winegrowers Association protects it’s “Gimlett Gravel” brand vigorously, just as the French do. Indeed, they claim to be the ‘first winegrowers in the New World – wine growing countries outside Europe – to define and protect their terroir based on an ultimate designation of their district according to a tightly specified soil type.” And who can criticize them for protecting the reputations they have worked so hard to win?
Wine producers in the “Gimlett Gravel” appellation area produce some outstanding red wines that have gained international recognition. Indeed, the Association promotes on it’s website that producers from this region have won 653 gold medals and 215 trophies in domestic and international competitions since 2001. That’s a pretty big accolade for such a small territory. Personal sampling on a recent trip to the Hawkes Bay confirms that those accolades are deserved!