Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Hawke’s Bay Wine Show pays tribute Corban and Chardonnay

I have often wondered what A A Corban would make of New Zealand wine today. The Lebanese immigrant arrived in 1892 to a county reeling in drunkenness and planted some of the first seeds of the now highly successful New Zealand wine industry in West Auckland but Corbans (sic) Wines is but a memory to most New Zealanders. So, for those of us who grew up with this once iconic and powerful wine brand, it was a welcome tribute to see one of AA’s descendents given a place in the Hawke’s Bay Wine Growers’ Hall of Fame. Alwyn Corban has a typically low key, laid back demeanour and if he had any inkling of his accolade, he kept well it hidden throughout the Hawke’s Bay A&P Wine Awards last Thursday night. It has always seemed a tragedy to me that Corbans Wines not only sold to Montana but that the brand itself has all but disappeared because the pioneering role that the Corban family undertook in the early days of New Zealand wine was enormously significant, so, sitting opposite Alwyn at the awards last week, was a privilege.

As it was to attend the annual wine awards dinner. I judged at the show last year and was invited as a journalist to attend the awards this time. I knew Alwyn’s uncle, Joe Corban, very well, having recorded much of his oral history for the Corban family, and Alwyn’s father, Alex, who was, to the best of my knowledge, New Zealand’s first winemaking graduate. There are many Corbans involved in wine, most notably Jeremy Corban and his partner, Katherine Jacobs, of Big Sky in Martinborough, and it seems fitting to honour this wine family.

Hawke’s Bay is the second biggest wine region in New Zealand and has remained so for a long time with its 5034 hectares of producing vineyard land, up from about 4600 in 2018. These numbers pale in significance compared to Marlborough but, strangely enough (or not) Sauvignon Blanc rules the vineyard roost in the Bay (1311 hectares), just as it does in Marlborough. Not that you see significant numbers of “Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc” floating around. The region is better known for its second most planted grape variety and its flagship one, Chardonnay, which has 1084 hectares in the Bay and was also the winning wine of the show.

Here are the full awards here.

Hawke’s Bay’s grapes and wines

90% of New Zealand’s Syrah, Cabernets and Merlot producing vineyard hectares are in Hawke’s Bay.

Champion Wine of Show
Villa Maria Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2019

Hawke’s Bay Wine Growers’ Hall of Fame
Alwyn Corban

New World Champion Commercial Red Wine
Church Road McDonald Series Syrah 2019

 Vintech Pacific Wine Technologies Champion Commercial White Wine
Clearview Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2019

Outstanding Wine of Provenance Award
Clearview Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2009, 2013, 2019

 NZ Frost Fans Champion Export Wine
Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Rosé 2020

Wineworks Sparkling Wine
Church Road Blanc De Blanc 2016

Hawke’s Bay Wine Co Sauvignon/Semillon
Church Road Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Somerset Smith Partners Pinot Gris
Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2020

Connec+ Rose
Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Rose 2020

Jenny Nilsson House of Travel HB Cellar Door of the Year
Elephant Hill

Bay Mazda Hawke’s Bay Premium White Varietals
Quarter Acre Viognier 2018

ATI Engineering Chardonnay
Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2019 

Moore Markhams Red Blends, Merlot Dominant
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 

No.9 Red Blends Cabernet Sauvignon Dominant
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels The Gimblett 2018

Fluidex Transport Ltd Syrah
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Hawkes Bay Syrah 2019 

Great Things Grow Here Other Premium Red Varietals and Blends
Beach House Cabernet Franc 2019

Hurford Parker Insurance Sweet Wine
Sileni Exceptional Vintage Pourriture Noble 2019

EIT Student Wine
Jordan Tilton-Mist

Hawkes Bay A&P Society & Craggy Range Young Vintners Scholarship
Jordyn Harper