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Tasting Reviews

Te Mata Estate Showcase 2018

I have always employed Te Mata’s Showcase Tasting at the start of March each year as a marker on the state of the New Zealand wine industry. Even though Hawke’s Bay is no longer the most widely planted region, and the Bordeaux red varieties have given way to Pinot Noir as the most important red grape, it’s the history and stability of Hawke’s Bay and its wine styles that is stronger than what any other region can deliver. Te Mata Estate is arguably the strongest producer in Hawke’s Bay, and its wine range accurately reflects what the local industry in a wider sense feels and where it stands as a whole. The Te Mata Showcase tasting has run since 1991 with the release of the 1989 ‘Coleraine’ ( I was there!), that’s nearly three decades, and there is no equivalent for it in any other region, or from any other winegrower.

Nicholas Buck - Te Mata Estate

Vintages 2013 – 2016 in Context
This year’s Showcase marks the end of an unprecedented golden four-vintage run of excellent to outstanding seasons. I certainly rate the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages in Hawke’s Bay as among the best seen, rivalling the likes of 1991, 1995, 1998, 2005 and 2009 in my books. It appears 2016 may be the lesser of the last four vintages, but not by much. The vintage was marked by very cool temperatures at the start of the growing season, saved by exceptional heat at the end. This has lent the wines, especially the Bordeaux varieties their distinctive character. Chardonnay and Syrah seem to have excelled. The 2013 – 2016 set are bookended by very difficult vintages. 2012 will go down as one of the coolest and wettest on record. And 2017 was another very challenging year, also very cool, but interspersed by some warm spells, but affected by high levels of precipitation. Most Hawke’s Bay winegrowers would have a preference for 2017 than 2012, as good wines in most varieties bar Viognier and Syrah were made, albeit in small quantities.

The 2016 and 2017 Wines and the 2018 Showcase
It’s a brave move to put on the wines from a more challenging vintage following a very good one. And that’s what Te Mata have done this year. It’s telling it as it is: winegrowing is agriculture, and those living off the produce must take what is given to them by nature. It’s what is done with the fruit that is the important thing. Te Mata exudes an acceptance of what each vintage gives them, and their experience which spans back four decades has given the team a sense of composure that younger producers have yet to gain. They and we know that the best possible wines from the fruit harvested will be made. Of course, some years will be better than others, and just as importantly, the styles of wines from each year will have their own personality.

The team at Te Mata have the ability to put things into a positive context. This is crucial in being able to deal with every approaching vintage, especially those that are difficult. This resonates with my own philosophy of looking on the bright side and at life with a "glass half full”. There are those who take a far more cynical perspective, looking for the negatives, and I pity them. Happiness will never be found by these people. It is imperative to be honest, and call something poor, when it is so. And I believe that my scores and ratings of wines give that degree of judgement.

As discussed above, the 2016 Bordeaux variety wines are not as good as the wines from the previous three years. They are lighter with a more refreshing acid edge. Severe selection has no doubt made the ‘Coleraine’ 2016 an excellent wine. At this time, the 2017 wines are certainly cooler and more slender, but they display finer aromatics and minerality. As long as the fruit selection was careful, and the winemaking suited to the fruit, creditable wines have been made.

This year’s Te Mata Estate Showcase tasting in Wellington was held at Prefab Hall. In attendance were Nicholas Buck, Peter Cowley and Toby Buck. My notes on the wines follow.

Peter Cowley - Te Mata Estate

The ‘Estate Vineyards’ Wines
Te Mata ‘Estate Vineyards’ Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Bright, very pale straw colour, very light edged. The nose is very fresh and bright with aromas of pungent passionfruit and nettles and a minerally edge. This is tight and slightly lean, but is pure and focussed. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate is taut and near-austere, quite minerally and mouthwatering, with nettles, cut-grass and fresh herbs, and subtle passionfruit notes. The mouthfeel possesses very fine phenolic textures and pin-point acidity, and finishes with mineral elements. A tight and slender, cooler-spectrum wine with purity and focus. Drink over the next 2 years. Fruit from the company’s Bridge Pa Triangle and ‘Woodthorpe Terraces’ vineyards, cool-fermented in stainless-steel to 12.0% alc. 17.0+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $22.00

Te Mata ‘Estate Vineyards’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016
Brilliant straw-yellow colour, lighter on the rim. This has a softly full and elegantly presented nose with an amalgam of citrus and stonefruit, along with subtle mealy complexities, some creamy barrel-ferment elements, all in balance. Medium-full bodied, the palate has rich stonefruit and citrus fruits, with mealy and nutty oak detail. The fruit richness is enlivened by bright acidity lending a lively mouthfeel and plenty of energy and drive. The acidity and soft textures carry the wine to a moderately long finish. This is a bright and fresh Chardonnay with fruit richness and oak detail. Keep for 4 years. Fruit from the company’s ‘Woodthorpe Terraces’, Bridge Pa Triangle and Havelock Hills sites, undergoing barrel and tank fermentation to 13.5% alc., a portion of the wine aged in 10% new oak barrels with aging on lees and partial MLF. 18.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $22.00

Te Mata ‘Estate Vineyards’ Hawke’s Bay Gamay Noir 2017
Pale red colour with moderate depth, lighter edged with slight purple hues. The nose is fresh and taut with bright and aromatic bubble gum fermentation esters, red cherry fruit, with strawberry and raspberry elements and confectionary. Light-medium bodied, the palate is aromatic with bright and lifted cherry and strawberry fruit along with fruit bon-bons and bubble-gum esters. The palate is tight and slender with light tannin textures and zesty, crisp acidity carrying the fruit. This is light and marked by carbonic maceration lift. Serve with antipasto over the next 2 years. Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc fruit from the ‘Woodthorpe Terraces’ vineyard, 53% undergoing carbonic maceration fermentation and 43% traditional fermentation to 12.5% alc. the wine aged 9 weeks in seasoned oak barrels. 16.5+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $22.00

Te Mata ‘Estate Vineyards’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2017
Deepish ruby-red colour with a dark heart and slight purple hues. The nose is fresh and vibrant with aromatic red berry and raspberry fruit, along with white pepper and hints of fresh herbs, unveiling red floral perfumes. This is tightly bound, a little light and uncomplicated, but with some depth. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegant in presentation, and tight and lean, showing primary raspberry fruit, white pepper and red florals and a little spice. The tannins are supple and modest in extract, and somewhat elevated acidity enlivens the mouthfeel. The fruit recedes on the finish. Drink over the next 2-3 years. Fruit from the company’s Bridge Pa Triangle and ‘Woodthorpe Terraces’ sites, destemmed and fermented to 12.0% alc., the wine aged 8 months in 10% new French oak barrels. 16.5+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $22.00

Te Mata ‘Estate Vineyards’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernets 2016
Dark, deep, black-hued red with slight purple hues, lighter on the edge. This has a firm nose with moderately rich aromas of blackcurrants, black plums and redcurrant fruit with soft, dark herbs adding interest. This shows good ripeness. Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegant in proportion with dark-red berry fruit with blackcurrants and blackberries with herbal elements. The fruit sweetness is balanced by fine-grained tannin extraction and structure, with lacy acidity. The wine carries to a long, lingering finish. A wine of good fruit presence. 4-5 years ahead of it. A blend of 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc from the company’s Bridge Pa Triangle, Havelock Hills and ‘Woodthorpe Terraces’ vineyards, fermented to 13.0% alc. and aged 12 months in 10% new French oak barrels. 17.5+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $22.00

Toby Buck - Te Mata Estate

The Showcase Wines
Te Mata ‘Cape Crest’ Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Bright pale straw colour, very light on the edge. This has a soft and gently voluminous nose with good depth of nectarines, greengages and green stonefruits forming an attractive array with nutty and spicy oak in the background. The inputs are harmonious. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate features flavours of nectarines, gooseberries, green stonefruits and fresh herbs along with creamy and nutty barrel-ferment notes and nuances of spice. This has depth and the flavours are mouthfilling, and the palate ie enlivened by bright acidity. A classic ‘Cape Crest’ on the elegant side. 5 years ahead easily. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of 86% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Semillon and 3% Sauvignon Gris, the fruit given some skin contact and fully barrel-fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months on lees in 30% new French oak barrels, the wine undergoing batonnage. 18.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $30.00

Te Mata ‘Elston’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016
Bright, light golden-yellow colour. The nose is well-proportioned, opening in breadth and depth to show a tight and intense heart of ripe white and yellow stonefruits with citrus fruit and mealy complexities, unfolding creamy barrel-ferment and nutty oak lending a complex layer. The nose has richness and density. Medium-full bodied, the palate possesses rich and luscious, vibrant flavours of ripe stonefruits and citrus fruits melded with mealy detail along with nutty oak and subtle nuances of flint. The fruit succulence is balanced by very fine phenolic textures and fresh acidity. The palate has excellent energy and vitality, carrying to a taut, sustained finish. This will develop over the next 5-6+ years. Hand-picked fruit, WBP and fully barrel-fermented with solids to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 11 months on lees in 35% new French oak barrels, the wine undergoing 100% MLF. 19.5-/20 Mar 2018 RRP $36.00

Te Mata ‘Bullnose’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016
Very dark, black-hued purple-red colour, near impenetrable, a little lighter edged. The nose exudes sheer elegance with beautifully refined And concentrated aromas of ripe blackberry and dark raspberry fruit with nuances on black pepper, lifted red, violet and black florals, spices and complexing minerally nuances. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegant in proportion with tightly bound, lusciously rich and succulently vibrant flavours of blackberries, raspberries, a little liquorice and black pepper with an intricate, detailed array of florals and spices. The palate is wonderfully balanced with fine-grained tannin structure supporting the fruit, along with delicate acidity. The fruit opulence carries the wine to a very long, lingering finish. This will develop over the next 7-9+ years. Hand-picked fruit from the ‘Bullnose’ and ‘Isosceles’ vineyards in the Bridge Pa Triangle, destemmed and fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels. 19.5/20 Mar 2018 RRP $75.00

Te Mata ‘Awatea’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernets/Merlot 2016
Deepish ruby-red colour with a dark heart, lighter on the rim. The nose is elegant and a little slender in presentation with piquant and fragrant aromatics showing dark-red berry and redcurrant fruit with entwined with subtle herbal notes, unfolding nuances of stalk and stem, with dark-red floral perfumes, and a suggestion of minerals. Herb and plum notes emerge in the glass. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegant and taut with fine concentration of blackberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant fruit, along with hints of leaf and red florals. The fruit is up-front with some sweetness and underlined by fine-grained tannin extraction and fresh, edgy acidity. This has good linearity, and carries to a fragrant red-fruited finish. This will keep 6-8 years. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 16 months in 35% new French oak barrels. 18.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $36.00

Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ Hawke’s Bay 2016
Full, dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour. The nose is softly full and elegantly presented with well-packed and dense aromas of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit along with dark herb and mineral notes. Some ethereal black florals, and complexing savoury black olive and nutty oak notes unfold with aeration lending detail. Medium-full bodied, the flavours are bold, up-front and show intensity, with a tightly bound heart, showing ripe dark-red and blackberry fruit, along with blackcurrant notes, dark-red plums and a layering of dark herbs. The fruit is elegantly rich and sweet, and is enlivened by a fine acid edge. The fruit is supported by considerable fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction lending serious structure. The wine carries to an elegant, refreshing, lingering finish. This is a more elegant ‘Coleraine’ with black fruits and plenty of structure and finesse. 10 years easily. Hand-picked fruit, a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels. 18.5+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $129.00

A Special Finale
As a treat, attendees were served the Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ 1998, the wine that Decanter magazine declared as a "wine legend” from a 12.0 L bottle. I’ve tasted this many times before, and it remains one of the great wines I have had the privilege of drinking and enjoying.

Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot 1998
Impenetrable black-red colour, still with purple hues on the rim, and youthful in appearance. The bouquet is very firm, deep and densely packed, near massively concentrated, yet with a degree of style, showing very ripe black berried fruits with a touch of blackcurrants and complex, savoury secondary dark herbs and black plums, and black earth and mineral and suggestions of pencil oak. Full-bodied, the palate has impressive depth and concentration, packed firmly with vibrant. Lively, sweetly succulent black fruits, allied to complex savoury blackcurrants and subtle herbal nuances, earth, minerals and nutty, pencilly oak. This has layers of flavour and is multi-dimensional. Beautifully ripe, fine-grained tannins and fresh, lacy acidity balance the fruit and power. The finish and length is extraordinary. This is beginning to drink well, but will develop over 10-15+ years. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 70% new French oak barriques. 20.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $N/A 

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