By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L Staff Member
During my travels last year in New Zealand I visited over 50 wineries. In general I was amazed by the quality and diversity of the wine I encountered. Marlborough was great, Central Otago too, but I think it was some of the other regions that I knew little about that really made an impact. The wines of Te Mata Estate in Hawkes Bay really impressed me, enough so that on my return to the US I sought them out and knew we had to make them available to our customers. Te Mata Estate is nestled into the lower slopes of Te Mata Peak, a dramatic rocky out crop that towers above the otherwise relatively flat plain. Only a couple miles from the ocean and tempered by cool breezes, these rocky free draining soils are perfect for balanced, finessed wines but with the concentration and power I have come to expect from Hawkes Bay.
Te Mata Estate’s notoriety has been bolstered in part by it’s proprietary wine: the remarkable Coleraine. This is a stunningly complex and delicious Bordeaux style blend that takes it’s name from the tiny vineyard directly adjacent to the winery. The Coleraine has been produced since 1982 and is highly regarded as one of New Zealand's finest wines. Quite compellingly the wine is made each year using a blind tasting and blending of the Bordeaux varietals that construct it.
The 2009 Coleraine is described as “saturated magenta in color with concentrated aromas of blackcurrants, spice and dark old fashioned roses. The palate opens with the dense sweet, dark berry fruits indicative of a great year. The focus quickly turns to rich fine tannins that fill the mouth, leaving a lasting impression of a wine of significant ageing ability. Coleraine '09 [is] considered amongst the greatest Coleraines. A blend of 52% cabernet sauvignon, 43% merlot, and 5% cabernet franc, it will continue to develop in bottle and provide great enjoyment up to 15 years from harvest.” My personal notes echoed these, being particularly impressed with the balance between rich dark fruits and a firm structure. This is clearly a wine for the long haul but with just enough extraction to please the bigger cab drinkers and those who enjoy riper Bordeaux vintages such as 2000, 2005, 2009.
Awatea is the 2nd wine to the Coleraine, made in a slightly more plush drink earlier style and represents an excellent value for a very solid bottle of wine. Te Mata Estate believes this to be the finest Awatea it has produced to date. “Dark crimson color with lifted floral, ripe blackberry cedar and spice aromas. The palate is laden with rich dark cherry, chocolate and Provence herb flavors. Awatea ’09 is a blend of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 15% cabernet franc. It will continue to evolve in bottle, providing great enjoyment up to 10 years from harvest. I found this wine to be sweeter fruited and a little fuller bodied than the Coleraine and with more supple tannins. The perfect steak wine! Truly over achieving against many others I would put in it’s category.
Also well known and highly sought after (in fact it was sold out pretty much everywhere in NZ when I was there) is the Te Mata Bullnose Syrah. “An impressive deep magenta colour, with aromas and flavours of raspberry and sweet cherry, baking spices and lavender. The rich palate displays velvety tannins underpinning plum and cream notes, leading to a long, elegant finish. It will continue to evolve in bottle for eight years from harvest.” A stunningly elegant and perfumed syrah again playing a perfect balance between old world structure and new world fruit.
Fresh on our shelves and online this week, the Te Mata wines are benchmark examples of what NZ can do beyond Sauv Blanc and Pinot. I urge anyone who enjoys Bordeaux and a more restrained Californian Meritage style to try the Coleraine and Awatea. They are excellent wines from a very highly regarded vintage. As for the Bullnose Syrah, Jimmy C and myself might just keep it all for ourselves!
-Ryan Woodhouse, Aussie/NZ Specialist
Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!