Set up 130 years ago by North England Quakers, Te Mata in Hawke’s Bay became New Zealand’s largest winery by the turn of the Twentieth Century. Its flagship red, Coleraine, a blend of Merlot and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc has also become New Zealand’s most famous red wine. In a landmark tasting, Roger Jones met up with Te Mata’s Toby Buck to taste through a range of Coleraine and the new vintages of Awatea, Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Elston Chardonnay, and Bullnose Syrah. That was after Roger discovered some fascinating facts about Toby…
“This ’boutique’ family wine estate, Te Mata, continues to excel and evolve with recent vintages showcasing that there is no holding back this stunning property in Hawke’s Bay,” writes Jones.
“Tobias Buck is a New Zealand writer living in Europe. He’s the winner of the Landfall Essay Prize, the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award and happens to be the fine wine sales & marketing manager for his family’s Te Mata Estate winery.”
Amazing what you find out about someone when you Google them before having lunch!
Talking to Toby (no I did not call him Tobias) over lunch it is clear that he is passionate about the history of Te Mata and the need to ensure that this boutique winery set in the Hawke’s Bay hillside continues to blaze a trail across the world, just like its founder Bernard Chambers had done back in the 19th century. The Chambers were Quakers from the North of England, who made a fortune in the Australian goldmines before heading to New Zealand.
With the ambition to make world class wines, with a bit of communion wine, in such a remote part of the world let alone New Zealand was a challenge, but they certainly did, shipping out of the same Napier port that the Te Mata family now ship in barrels and ship out wine. By 1905 Te Mata was the biggest winery in New Zealand, exporting wine all over the world, and winning gold medals for its Cabernet and Chardonnay. Te Mata’s buildings are unchanged since those early pioneer days.
Te Mata was bought by the Buck and Morris families in 1974, and has continued to dazzle the wine world with its world class wines ever since.
Tasting a vertical of Te Mata Estate Coleraine
The flagship wine is Te Mata Estate Coleraine which is New Zealand’s most famous red wine, first launched in 1982, and is a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Coleraine derives its name from the Coleraine Vineyard, home of John and Wendy Buck, John’s late grandfather who was born in Coleraine in Northern Ireland.
Te Mata Coleraine 2020
Seamless, pure, pretty perfect, lingers on the palate, elegant; bright, fresh, foraged bilberries, redcurrants, violets and blueberries, silky smooth, delicate cedar backbone. This needs time but certainly shows massive potential. Will revert in a decade.
Te Mata Coleraine 2011 (magnum)
Meaty, lamb meat juices, hints of fresh offal, perfumed muscular nose, shouts out Bordeaux, ripe dark fruit, hints of roses, liquorice, plums, juicy and polished. A treat to try it in magnum.
Te Mata Coleraine 2004
This is quite stunning, the best Coleraine that I have had, my notes are splattered with “brilliant” and red wine! Juicy and seamless on first taste, violets, damsons, sweet olives, cumin, Moroccan spices, Wow! this has brilliant balance. Drinking so well now but will continue to excel.
Te Mata Coleraine 1995 (own reserves)
Hedonistic nose, espresso aromas, sweet beetroot, leather, fabulously clean purity, bright acidity, beautiful structure, there is a brick red, lamb fat background akin to a great Bordeaux or aged Rioja, there’s a spiced finished with dark blue fruit, quite superb.
For assessment of more vintages of Te Mata Coleraine click here.
If you can’t get hold of any Coleraine then look at Te Mata Awatea, which you could think of as a ‘baby Coleraine’, first released in 1982, three years prior to the first release of Coleraine, and again a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Te Mata Awatea 2020
The purity and perfection of this wine is awesome – delicate cassis, violets and cedar, black olives, savoury, foraged herbs, at a third of the price of Colaraine can there be a better value Bordeaux-style Cabernet out there ?
Imperious food matching of these wines
I was so bowled over by the quality of the food matching produced by Ollie Dabbous at Hide & Seek on the first floor of the Michelin Star Hide in Piccadilly that I am going to describe the evolution of the wine with the food (and in great glasses) which showed these Te Mata wines at their very best. Like many winos I have had the privilege to eat here many times, but this surpassed all other experiences in giving that perfect food and wine matching.
Te Mata Cape Crest 2020, which is called a Sauvignon Blanc, but there any resemblance to Sauvignon Blanc stops, this is a classic white Bordeaux blend with 85% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon and 6% Sauvignon Gris. Elegant, refined and creamy with a lovely clean, fresh but lingering finish.
This was matched by a silky smooth chilled lovage and herb broth, that had you thinking of a hedonist herbal health drink that was moreish as opposed to gut wrenching. With this broth came some ice cold baby gem lettuce with seaweed dust. This brought out the amazing flavours and textures hidden inside the Cape Crest bringing this youthful wine to life. Here we now have lemon and lime curd, custard apples and beeswax oozing from this wine, which really does make you think of White Bordeaux.
Next up was one of the best food matches I have had, with Te Mata Cape Crest 2019, the wine having evolved beautifully. This was matched to Ripe melon with Graceburn & Zatar, a mixture of textures of melon (including crushed sorbet) with an English feta cheese made to a Persian recipe and steeped in rapeseed oil as opposed to brine with wild Turkish herbs. The wine suddenly grew in stature, from great it became “stunning”, textured, focused, with an elegant perfume, notes of Sicilian lemon curd, kaffir lime zest, delicate beeswax and royal jelly… Wow!
Next up comes the classic Hide “Nest Egg”, a smokey and earthy mix of eggs, butter, wild mushroom essence & truffles which was matched to Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2021. First, the Chardonnay is fresh with bright pithy flavours, hints of pink grapefruit, fresh acidity, then with the food it evolves into a sublime, pure, elegant, silky and lingering Chardonnay that excels. The acidity is wrapped by the creamy textures, with the mushroom/truffle essence lifting the wine to new heights. Hints of pineapple and white nuts lingered on the palate afterwards. Pure perfection!
An older vintage of the Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2019 was then served with Cornish monkfish with sweetcorn, meadowsweet & black truffle (I also noted some scallop mousse in this dish) the extra two years on the Chardonnay giving greater depth to the wine. This had more lime blossom and ripe nectarines, with the seafood it was well balanced and the wine became moreish, refreshing the earthy truffles, and giving freshness also to the creamy seafood.
Onto the reds, served with Roast Yorkshire duck, lavender honey, figs and walnut praline. The Te Mata Coleraine 2004 (already noted above) was as brilliant with or without the food, whilst I preferred as a match the Te Mata Alma 2019, this Pinot Noir which has been hidden away for far too long for family consumption (some 20 years) was stunning. On the nose a hint of cocoa, soft and delicate perfumed nose, cherries and berries on the palate, then once matched to the rich but sweet and tender duck, this Pinot is a star, it develops a chewy, savoury, truffled mid-palate, still with freshness, crimson and dark cherry, with a refined delicate finish. The Te Mata Alma 2020 had an impressive, perfumed nose, crimson, savoury and spiced; this is a wine to age, a classy Pinot more Burgundian in style than New World and a real star in the making.
Other wines tried included the sought-after Bullnose, the Syrah vines first planted in 1990, the wine then aged in French oak for 15 months.
Te Mata Bullnose 2020
Savoury and spiced, distinct floral and spiced nose, big in tannin, as it evolves in the glass the aromatics lift and coat the tannins, giving a beautiful spiced Syrah that is very much in the Rhône style.
Te Mata Bullnose 2019
Fresh, clean and focused; aromatics include delicate spices, lilac, blackberry, herbs, wild flowers; on the palate the wine is silky, lingering and evolving, 40% new oak but carries it well – a wine to age and enjoy in a decade.
And so in conclusion
This ’boutique’ family wine estate, despite its 130-year history, continues to excel and evolve with recent vintages showcasing that there is no holding back this stunning property in Hawke’s Bay. Of course its icon wines are not available to all, but I would highly recommend the Cape Crest, Awatea and Alma as great value wines to invest in and enjoy drinking in a few years. And no I did not ask Tobias Buck about his literary prizes or the numerous academic letters after his name, I just stuck to the food and wine.