TE MATA’S STORY
Te Mata is one of the oldest iconic wineries of New Zealand, dating back to 1896 as mentioned on its labels. Te Mata is the name of a peak located in Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. In terms of location it has everything going for it. The slopes are north facing, the soil a mix of gravel, sand and silt flushing in nutrients from the multitude of rivers that flow through Hawkes Bay (Wairoa, Tutaekuri, Mohaka, Ngaruroro and Tukituki river). Warm dry summers with long hours of sunshine provides more than adequate warmth and time for ripening of the grapes.
In 1854, John Chambers opened Te Mata as a farm but it was his son Bernard, who having worked and studied in France, decided to come back to the farm and plant vineyards at the base of the low rise Te Mata hills (about 400m). With the best northerly aspect and summer sun, they had hit it spot on, in terms of positioning. However with the onset of the prohibition era around 1919, they found it challenging to sustain the business and the vineyard was then sold and passed ownership hands multiple times. It was only in 1975, when John Buck and Michael Morris hit upon this site after a long term search for the perfect location, that the current Te Mata was born. A thorough upgradation of the vineyards followed, where by existing inferior palomino (sherry) varieties that were stagnating were pulled out and replaced with superior grafted rootstocks of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that actually suited the soils very well. Their first vintage of 1982 received great accolades and the pair has never looked back since then. Since then, they have acquired and or purchased another nine vineyards, covering 260 hectares of land. Starting with the original vineyard property in Havelock North, the families now also own the vast Woodthorpe terraces close to Tutaekuri River and Bridge Pa Triangle north west of Havelock North.
“Coleraine” is their signature flagship wine from the original property at Havelock North that has the oldest vines, which has been praised by Rober Parker and placed at an equal rating to the Bordeaux second growths.
Equally remarkable is the upcoming “Awatea” that has also joined the leagues of quality Bordeaux rankings. Their latest releases of “Bullnose” Syrah and “Elston” Chardonnay from the new vineyards have also been claiming international recognition for their purity and longevity. These are some charming examples of super expressive wines from New Zealand terroir coupled with very refined winemaking talent put together. John Buck also initiated the Hawkes Bay Winegrowers Association and has been the Chairman of New Zealand Wine Institute between 1991 and 1996 aiming to promote exports of New Zealand Wines. In 2014, Nicholas Buck, son of John Buck was appointed CEO as part of the succession management and the winery still remains family owned. Jonathan Buck (eldest son of John Buck) and Alistair Morris (son of Michael Morris) are now Directors and John’s youngest son, Tobias has also joined the winery board after his stint in Bordeaux.
Te Mata Estate has demonstrated its commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability by becoming an integral part of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) programme. John Buck has been known for supporting the New Zealand Laureate Poet Award and restoring the Hawkes Bay Performing Arts to promote growth of Art in New Zealand.
Recently, I had the privilege of tasting 2010 Awatea, that is the mid wine in the range after Coleraine. Priced at approximately GBP 23-25, this wine represents the typical and ideal Bordeaux blend. Its got the expressive Cabernet Sauvignon aromatic black currant and cedar, toasty and spicy personality along with the vegetal savoury notes of asparagus and green pepper, going hand in hand with rich vibrant plum fruit moistening characters from Merlot. Giving a visual impression of a slender and tall quality Bordeaux with all its expressive qualities, it has soft, ripe and brilliantly supple tannins and a good structure that will render it to age for atleast another 8-10 years. Alcohol levels are very modest at 13.5% making it a truly elegant accompaniment to a rich dinner without being overpowering. I do recommend this wine is a must to experience for all Bordeaux buffs amongst us. (18/20)