How do you beat Wellington on a beautiful day? One of the best ways I know is to taste iconic wines that live up to their name.
Enter Te Mata.
The winery’s owners and winemaker held their annual Te Mata release tasting at Prefab in Jessie Street yesterday and it was led by winemaker Phil Brodie, who has been at Te Mata for the past 28 years and says he’s still learning. This is clearly one of the key reasons that these wines just keep getting better. Global warming, climate change, warmer summers – call it what you will – but the past seven vintages have been significantly warmer too, which is undoubtedly another reason – warmer weather equals riper flavours in the grapes equals better quality wines. Especially this stellar bunch. Te Mata is one of those rare few wineries that makes good, very good and exceptional wines. Its winemaking team doesn’t do bad. That’s my five cents worth anyway, based on 25 years of following the fortunes of these outstanding whites and reds. My only gripe is the price of the top reds, which has risen so high that I no longer personally collect Bullnose and Coleraine; more’s the pity. The last time I opened an old Coleraine, it was 21 years old – and it was worth the wait.
2018 Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc
This dry, full bodied Sauvignon Blanc has a long track record as one of New Zealand’s top dry whites. It’s 100% fermented in French oak, 30% new with the remainder in used barrels. It’s 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Semillon and 4% Sauvignon Gris (a grape variety in it own right – not a hybrid or blend, as the name seems to suggest). This wine’s a keeper. It ages beautifully for up to 10 years.
2018 Te Mata Elston Chardonnay
I love this wine. It’s named after the ancestral home of Charles Darwin, Elston Hall in Nottinghamshire, the UK, and tastes dry with ripe stone fruit flavours of peach and nectarines, balanced by a citrusy, creamy and lingering finish. It drinks well now, but is youthful and will come into its own in in the next five years.
2018 Te Mata Alma Pinot Noir
This is the first Pinot Noir from Te Mata and is a different style to those made further south. The grapes were hand picked from a vineyard in the Dartmoor Valley, a cooler area in the Hawke’s Bay wine climate spectrum. Despite which, this good quality red tastes bigger, more full bodied and spicier than many New Zealand Pinots. A wine to watch – and to cellar. Give it another four to five years.
2018 Te Mata Bullnose Syrah
Bullnose Syrah is named after a car that had the bull emblem on its radiator and, well, it’s a long story, suffice to say that the wine is made from hand harvested grapes grown on Te Mata’s Bullnose Vineyard with grapes from the Hotspur and Isosceles vineyards also used for good measure. It was aged in new and seasoned French oak barriques for 15 months, is sealed with a natural cork and is super dry, full bodied and savoury.
Drinks impressively but needs time to show its full potential.
2018 Te Mata Awatea Cabernets Merlot
Awatea is made every year and the blend varies slightly; this year’s being 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. It’s dry, juicy, medium bodied and youthful with blackcurrant flavours, spice. Awatea is named after the SS Awatea, a ship that sailed from Auckland to Sydney to Wellington in the 1930s.
Star wine of the tasting
2018 Te Mata Coleraine
I often find myself conflicted when rating wines like this one; it’s impeccable in taste but its price puts it beyond the reach of most of us mere mortals. That said, the new 2018 Te Mata Coleraine is, without doubt, the star wine of this winery’s latest releases. It had been bottled for two months at the time of tasting in early February 2020, so it has plenty of time up its sleeve; it’s a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc and tastes of dark black fruit flavours with hints of black olives, wild herbs and a full body.
It’s named after the Coleraine Vineyard, which is also the site of the home of Te Mata owners, John and Wendy Buck.