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Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Merlot in the spotlight

Hawke’s Bay grapegrowers and winemakers can now look forward to an annual forum on the category of wine most significant to the region, Cabernet Merlot.

Following glowing reviews from Neal Martin, writer for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc. will hold the first of what is set to be an annual New Zealand Cabernet Merlot forum this year at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House on November 6 and 7.

Designed to act as a forum of excellence, sessions will feature case studies, trade perspectives, history, and tastings of comparative wines within the Cabernet Merlot category, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and blends.

A range of talented speakers are scheduled to present at the first forum, including keynote speaker James Lawther, a celebrated French wine writer with a coveted Master of Wine. James will present an address on Bordeaux and what changes are taking place in the ‘Old World’ today.

Targeted at national and local producers and growers alongside interested trade and media, the forum aims to build on the existing brand premium for New Zealand Cabernet Merlot and the region while promoting the variety to a national and international audience.

“As the red wine capital of New Zealand and the second largest wine growing region, we can now look forward to an event that will shine a light on what remains Hawkes Bay’s most important red wine category,” said Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc. chairman Rod McDonald.

“After successfully gaining New Zealand Winegrowers support to hold this event, we look forward to coming together each November to achieve quality improvements and boost the already established credibility of Cabernet Merlot with our combined knowledge base,” said Mr McDonald.

Other talented presenters scheduled for this year’s forum include David Jordan of Vine to Wine who will speak on growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties in the vineyard; and Cameron Douglas MS (Master Sommellier) who will discuss New Zealand Cabernet Merlot from a restauranteur’s perspective.

Local presenters are also to share their knowledge. Steve Smith MW of Craggy Range and Peter Cowley winemaker from Te Mata Estate, will present case studies on their individual experiences with Cabernet Merlot. For international flavour, Peter Bissell of Balnaves of Coonawara is to share insight from an Australian perspective.

Divided into two days, the forum creates an opportunity for a separate focus on the ‘hard’ technical aspects of Cabernet Merlot growing and winemaking, alongside the ‘soft’ learnings of market information, current trends and feedback.

“For anyone growing and selling Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or blends of both, this is an event that will considerably shape the category’s future and is obviously an opportunity not to be missed,” Mr McDonald said.

Registrations of interest can be made by contacting Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc. at or phone 06 876 3418.

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