A Hawkes Bay winery is producing New Zealand's first commercial Zinfandel.

Last August Kemblefield’s owner and chief wine maker, John Kemble, bottled 300 dozen of 2000 Kemblefield The Reserve Zinfandel; the first ever Kemblefield vintage of 100% estate grown Zinfandel.

While the climate of New Zealand’s South Island is too cool to ripen Cabernet or Zinfandel, the North Island gets more sun and Bordeaux varieties are grown in Hawkes Bay. There is no reason why Zinfandel should not successfully ripen there.

The grapes underwent open-top fermentation before being aged in French oak barriques for 15months.

Before acquiring the Hawkes Bay estate in 1992 Californian Kemble spent 15 years with the Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma. He told decanter.com that he selected the 145 hectare Mangatahi estate, a former cattle farm, ‘partly because the soil and climate are very similar to those of Sonoma.’

‘Zinfandel is grown in a wide variety of conditions in California, ranging from cool, coastal valleys to the hot Central Valley. Hawkes Bay conditions are more akin to the cool coastal valleys of California.’

In 1994 the first Zinfandel cuttings were brought over from Ravenswood’s Old Hill Vineyard. Kemblefield Estate is one of only two New Zealand wineries to have the variety.

Kemblefield 2000 The Reserve Zinfandel is distributed in the UK by Heyman, Barwell, Jones Ltd.

Written by Tracey Barker