In Hawkes Bay, 1998 was a drought season following a wet winter. Vines showed vigorous growth early in the season, and then had a compact flowering in early December. Crops set were large, again necessitating thinning, and the ability to drip irrigate vineyards was essential in order to retain sufficient leaves to maintain photosynthesis. Older vineyards did better than younger blocks; cabernet sauvignon was a star performer, illustrating perhaps that while merlot is a soft option in terms of getting through poorer years, in the better years cabernet sauvignon gives a backbone to reds grown on river gravels that is an essential part of their quality and ability to develop in barrel and bottle. All the fruit was in wonderful condition but vineyards needed very careful management to avoid dehydration ripening and the extractive characters that can result.