Hawke's Bay is located on the eastern side of the North Island and is one of New Zealand's warmest regions. With high sunshine hours and low rain fall (780 mm year) Hawke’s Bay is perfectly suited to growing wine grapes and crafting premium wine. Our belief is that great wines are hand-made wines where meticulous attention to detail starts in the vineyard. This is why we hand-pick our grapes in order to be very selective in using the best possible fruit to make our wines.
Elephant Hill has three vineyards in the renowned sub-regions of Hawke’s Bay. The coastal Te Awanga Vineyard, the inland Gimblett Vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers District and The Triangle Vineyard in the Bridge Pa Triangle region.
SOIL AND CLIMATE
Our vineyards have a variety of soil types and micro climates which give us the ability to capture the different elements and nuances of each particular site to make wines of complexity and character. Each grape variety has been carefully matched to the varying soil types, ranging from shingle to clay to very old, stony river beds producing a range of flavour profiles in the wines. This gives us extensive blending options or the opportunity to make terroir based, site specific, single vineyard wines.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL, HARD WORK AND AN ABSOLUTE COMMITMENT TO QUALITY ARE THE HALLMARKS OF BOTH OUR VITICULTURE AND WINEMAKING.
The technology associated with winemaking is always improving, as is the knowledge and understanding of the science of wine. Important as these factors are, to preserve the varietal integrity of the fruit from our vineyard is key. In the winery we ferment our grapes in many small, separate batches. This allows for the nuances and character of each separate fermentation to come to the fore and be considered when blending for our Estate, Reserve or Icon wines.
The perfect vintage is warm and dry throughout autumn; the climate so benign of threats that we can pick the fruit when it is truly flavour-ripe for the style of wine desired. The perfect vintage, of course, does not exist. In crafting wine one learns to deal with the weather nature hands you, and gradually to enjoy the variation from year to year. Great wine should reflect the site and the climate of where it is grown. One of the most rewarding challenges in making wine is to craft a wine that best represents the vintage in which it was grown, that plays to the strengths of the harvest and mitigates the challenges that were faced.
The Sauvignon Blanc is made from seven separate hand-picks between the 6th and 14 of March, all the fruit coming from our Te Awanga coastal vineyard. The grapes were gently whole bunch pressed and fermented with natural yeasts at cool temperatures. They were then blended and retained on fine lees for 6 months to enhance texture and complexity. The wine shows far more passion fruit and nettle characters than the previous cooler vintages. It has a rich and generous palate with refreshing acidity giving a clean and long finish.
The 2014 Viognier was hand harvested from our coastal Te Awanga vineyard. The fruit was whole-bunch pressed and fermented in a mixture of stainless steel and oak puncheons. The wine remained on light lees for six months prior to bottling. A fresh viognier showing classic varietal characteristics of nectarine and apricot. It is dry, medium-bodied and the palate balances richness with fine acidity.
The wine is made from handpicked fruit of outstanding quality and optimal flavour ripeness. The bunches were whole-bunch pressed to 228L Burgundian oak, 25% new. It is a wild yeast fermented Chardonnay which purposely did not go through malolactic fermentation and remained in barrel, on lees, for 11 months. It is a balanced, well-structured coastal Te Awanga single vineyard Chardonnay showing great fruit concentration and a subtle nuttiness with good texture and length.
The 2014 Le Phant Blanc is a blend of Pinot Gris (48%), Viognier (47%) and Gewurztraminer (5%) from our coastal Te Awanga Vineyard. The grapes were hand harvested, whole-bunch pressed and co-fermented. A small proportion was barrel fermented and the rest in stainless steel, temperature-controlled tanks. This distinctive blend of aromatic white varieties brings together subtle spicy characters and floral notes with excellent freshness and texture.
2012 was a challenging year but with our hand-picking and hand-sorting we were able to select excellent fruit from vines that are extremely low cropping at 1.4kg/vine. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed in our basket press which is a delicate process to keep all those wonderful aromatic characters of this variety. 5% of the juice was barrel-fermented in Acacia wood which gives excellent texture but no dominant oak character. 30% was fermented with wild yeast in old French oak barrels and the rest in stainless steel, temperature-controlled tanks. As usual with our wines, there is a minimal amount of filtering and fining. This is an intense, concentrated wine with more spicy than floral Gewürztraminer characters. It is beautifully balanced, textural, and full-bodied with a long off-dry finish.
2014 was a very good vintage allowing us to make a Reserve wine. The grapes were hand-picked over two separate picks from the stoniest block of the vineyard closest to the ocean. The vines were planted in 2003 and the stoney, free draining soil adds a minerality to the wine. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed to enable gentle extraction of the juice and underwent a natural fermentation using indigenous yeast. 50% was fermented in old oak puncheons and 50% in stainless steel tank. The resulting wine was blended and allowed to rest in 3 year old oak on fine lees for eight months. Coupled with regular lees stirring, the wine has developed excellent texture and mouth-feel. What we are looking for is pure fruit expression, fine acidity with great texture, length and citrus characters.
The fruit (84% Clone 15 and 16% Clone 95) was hand-picked on three separate days - 21 March, 26 March and 2 April. The majority clone 15 gives us great acidity and lovely citrus characters which in turn are good for ageing and give us the characters in the style we want. The slow fermentation was with indigenous yeast and went through natural malo and 30% new oak for a full 12 months with lees stirring early on. The wine was then transferred from barrel to tank and left on light lees for another 5 months to develop richness, texture and flavour. There was very minimal fining and filtration. The result is a concentrated, rich Chardonnay with good length, weight and texture showing nutty and citrus characters.
The grapes for our Central Otago Pinot Noir were sourced from the Maori Point Vineyard in the Tarras sub-region. A combination of clones was used in blending to showcase the broad flavour spectrum of Central Otago Pinot Noir. The majority of the grapes were carefully de-stemmed with a small proportion (5%) of whole cluster grapes used. They were cold soaked for a week to preserve delicate aromas and colour. Fermentation took place in traditional open top wooden cuvés. Following pressing, the wine spent 10 months maturing in oak, of which 25% were new Burgundian oak. It was then bottled with minimal fining and intervention. The wine shows typical Pinot Noir characters of red berry fruit and subtle floral characters followed by notes of bay leaf and spice. A very well balanced wine with soft tannins and good length.
The 2013 Le Phant is a full bodied Hawke’s Bay red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The grapes were hand harvested, carefully de-stemmed to open top cuves and fermented over a fourteen day period. The wine went through malolactic fermentation in oak with minimal intervention for 12 months. The nose displays Cassis, plums and hints of blackberry. The palate is rich and ripe with silky tannins and a long finish. Enjoy it now or for the next 6 years.
This is a blend of 46% Merlot, 45% Malbec and 9% Cabernet Franc from our Gimblett and Triangle Vineyards. The grapes were hand harvested, carefully destemmed and fermented in numerous small batch ferments over a 3 week period then gently pressed to oak barriques. The wine received 12 months in French oak. 28% new. After blending in April 2014 it received another 6 months ageing (on fine lees) in tank. A slow fermentation and minimal intervention has created a full, ripe and well balanced wine with a core of ripe fruit and excellent structure.
The 2013 Syrah is made from grapes off our Gimblett and Te Awanga Vineyards. The vine clones are Mass Selection, Chave and 470. Syrah is one of our flagship varieties and with the exceptional 2013 vintage in Hawke’s Bay this wine measures up to the very best we have made. The bunches were gently de-stemmed and fermented in traditional open-top oak cuves. After pressing the wine was put to French oak barriques (30% new) and allowed to age for 12 months before bottling. It has aromas of blackberry, dark chocolate and anise with ripe, juicy black fruits and typical spice and pepper on the palate.
In 2013 we had fantastic growing conditions and an exceptional vintage allowing us to make a Reserve wine which we last made in 2009. The wine is a blend of 64% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec. Careful hand-picking over 6 separate days ranging from 13 March to 17 April ensured only the ripest fruit was harvested. The grapes come from our Gimblett Vineyard (78%) and our Triangle Vineyard (22%). The Cabernet Sauvignon was vinified in open top oak cuves and the Merlot in stainless steel open top fermenters. It was then aged in French oak for 15 months with 40% in new oak. With aromas of blackberries and a palate showing notes of plum, cassis, tobacco and cedar; this is a full-bodied Bordeaux-style blend. It has complexity, depth and a long finish with good tannin structure showing the quality of the vintage. It is a wine that will age very well for 10+ years.
The 2013 Reserve Syrah is made with Syrah from our Gimblett Gravels vineyard (85%) and Te Awanga Vineyard (14%) with 1% Viognier co-fermented into the blend. There were 15 separate hand-picks across the two vineyards from 28 March to 21 April. Climatically 2013 was an exceptional vintage and widely rated as one of the best ever. The clonal make-up of the Syrah is 50% MS, 45% 470 and 5% Chave. There were 11 different ferments ranging from 1 to 5 tonnes in a combination of traditional open top oak cuves and stainless open top fermenters. The ferments were hand plunged and the wine was then aged for 15 months in French oak of which 35% were new barrels. There was no fining and minimal filtration. The wine is dense and concentrated with red and black berry fruit characters, pepper and spice. A wine that will age very well for many years.
The late autumn weather of the 2011 vintage worked very well for the production of our second Noble or botrytis sweet wine. Harvested over three separate hand picks from our coastal Te Awanga Vineyard the Viognier grapes were whole-bunch pressed and fermented over a three year period in French oak barriques. Rich and dense, the wine displays a combination of lemon curd, orange peel and marmalade with lingering grapefruit on the palate. The concentrated sweetness of this wine is perfectly balanced with the acidity.