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Visiting New Zealand's wine regions 
Part 11: CJ Pask, Hawkes Bay

CJ Pask is one of the pioneers of the Gimblett Gravels, the special terroir in the Hawke’s Bay wine region that’s so well suited to red wine production. Chris Pask was the first to plant here back in 1981, eager to see what sort of wines would be produced on this rather barren bit of land. Chris planted all sorts of varieties: some were a waste of time, but others were a great success.

I visited and tasted with Russell Wiggins(above), who is one of the winemaking team. He’s Hawkes Bay born and bred, but studied at Roseworthy in Australia. He started working in Auckland in the early 1990s and moved to Hawkes Bay in 1999, joining CJ Pask in 2003. It’s a mid-sized winery that has grown organically to its present size: last vintage some 700 tons were crushed.

CJ Pask have a sizeable 85–90 hectares of the Gimblett Gravels, and have planted about 60 ha of this. They are reworking the vineyards a bit: some blocks have been pulled out because of virus, and they are growing lupins and grasses, trying to get rid of the mealybugs (insects that carry virus) and revitalizing the soils. They are currently a bit short of Cabernet and Chardonnay.


The wines are very attractive, and the Declaration range is pretty serious, with one of the best Chardonnays I’ve tried from New Zealand. ‘Fruit expression is so important to us’, says Wiggins. Interestingly, cork is still used here (this is now quite rare in New Zealand), although the sort used is ProCork (right), which is natural cork with a membrane at each end to prevent any TCA present in the cork getting into the wine. They also make sparkling wine here, although I didn’t get to try it. Pictured below is one of the devices used in disgorging the wines.

Sustainability is a big focus here. Wiggins says that the vineyard manager is very switched on to the biodynamic-type philosophy, and uses composting and minimal spraying, especially of pesticides that just kill everything.


CJ Pask Omahu Road Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Hawkes Bay
Vibrant and a bit grassy with some herby depth. The palate is rounded yet fresh, with lots of fruit. 87/100

CJ Pask Roy’s Hill Unoaked Chardonnay 2006 Hawkes Bay
An attractive fresh, fruity, rather nutty style with good fruit, and some appley brightness. 86/100

CJ Pask Omahu Road Rose 2007 Hawkes Bay
Bright pink/red colour. Sweet strawberry and cream nose, with a soft-textured yet fresh palate showing fruit sweetness. Very tasty. 88/100

CJ Pask Gimblett Road Chardonnay 2006 Hawkes Bay
Broad, nutty nose is quite deep with some melon and herb notes. Intense fruit is the hallmark. The richly fruited palate has notes of melon, figs and toast. Very stylish and finishes quite minerally: there’s no malolactic fermentation at all. 90/100

CJ Pask Gimblett Road Syrah 2006 Hawkes Bay
A bit of whole bunch fermentation here. Very bright aromatic dark fruits nose with a lifted spiciness, some violetty floral notes and a hint of pepper. Juicy, fat and peppery on the palate with lovely precision to the flavours. Fruit-dominated, fresh and youthful. 91/100

CJ Pask Gimblett Road Merlot 2005 Hawkes Bay
Smooth refined red and black fruits nose is quite pure. Nice focus of supple, elegant blackcurrant fruit on the palate with a minerally edge. Stylish, poised and elegant. 90/100

CJ Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2005 Hawkes Bay
Sweet aromatic nose is refined with red fruits and a sappy mineral lift. The supple palate is expressive and midweight, with a nice gravelly edge to the fruit. Some spicy tannic bite, too. 91/100

CJ Pask Declaration Chardonnay 2005 Hawkes Bay
Amazingly aromatic nose with intense fruit character (melon, peach, pear, mandarin and grapefruit). The palate is big and peachy with some lemony freshness as well as complex, broad, mouthfilling flavours of grapefruit, citrus, toast and fig. Astonishing stuff. 93/100

CJ Pask Declaration Merlot 2004 Hawkes Bay
Very fine, expressive aromatic nose with ripe but restrained red fruits, as well as some blackcurrant notes and gravelly minerality. The palate is smooth and quite concentrated, but shows great balance and purity. Classy. 92/100

CJ Pask Declaration Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2004 Hawkes Bay
There’s a vibrant gravelly, almost tarry spiciness to the nose, which displays expressive dark fruits. The palate is savoury and dark with a tight minerally spicy structure under the dark fruits. Really delicious with lots of presence and density. 92/100

Wines tasted 11/07  
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