Nestled in the heart of the Bridge Pa region, Alpha Domus are masters of the quintessential Hawke’s Bay wine.
New Zealand’s second largest winegrowing region, Hawke’s Bay is known for its plummy red blends, elegant syrahs and full-bodied chardonnays. Since their establishment in 1989, family owned and operated winery Alpha Domus have set out to produce wines that perfectly capture the area’s unmistakeable characteristics.
‘The main thing for us is that the wine tastes like the vineyard,’ says winemaker Barry Riwai. ‘I hope people try the range and really get that sense of place.’
He explains the importance of flavour in guiding that crucial decision of when to pick. It helps that the Alpha Domus winery is right next to the vineyard, as harvest time means daily surveillance of the grapes.
‘I spend a lot of time eating grapes at this time of year, waiting until they’re perfect,’ says Barry, ‘That’s how we make the picking decisions – flavour is the most important thing.’
He loves making wine in the Hawke’s Bay region because of the variety. ‘There are lots of different wines we can make here and lots we can make really well,’ says Barry. ‘Of course, there’s the syrah and chardonnay, but there’s a whole myriad of other things too.’
One such experiment is the exceptional Beatrix Sparkling Rosé – named for the third generation of the winery’s founders, the Ham family. ‘We picked the merlot grapes 2 weeks early, specially to make this wine,’ says Barry. It started out as a pet project, just to be sold at the cellar door, but the reception encouraged them to take it further. ‘It went crazy - people loved it.’
Those Hawke’s Bay classics do remain a cornerstone for the winery and Barry’s quest for authentic flavour shines through in every bottle. Take, for example, the Alpha Domus chardonnay. ‘That grapefruit flavour is unmistakably Bridge Pa,’ he explains, ‘Citrus, grapefruit and stonefruit.’
Their syrah is another prime example. ‘It smells like our vineyard,’ he says. ‘Only we get that character, that smell of sweet violet.’
A long-standing proponent of sustainability, Alpha Domus is currently working towards becoming a fully certified organic winery. For Barry this means spending even more time in the vineyard, getting to know the vines a lot better.
‘This will be our first year in conversions, but the vines seem more balanced already. They look really good this year, even despite the drought.’ It’s a good sign of more delicious things to come from Alpha Domus.