Te Mata Estate – Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Te Mata Estate is situated in Hawkes Bay, a beautiful wine region in the east of New Zealand’s North Island, with some of the most glorious stretches of Pacific Ocean coastline in the world. It lies at the same latitude south as Valencia or Northern Sonoma in California are north – 39 degrees – so it is both sunny and warm. However there are constant light winds which blow from the west and cool temperatures down in the summer, giving the grapes an extremely long, gradual growing season which enables them to achieve impressive flavour intensity and balance. Another important characteristic of this area is its very high level of ultra violet rays, due mainly to the purity of the atmosphere in pollution-free New Zealand. This helps intensify colour and flavour and thicken the red grape skins, giving the red wines serious structure and ageability.

The soils in Hawkes Bay are comprised of gravel, sand and silt, left behind as the 3 main rivers of Hawkes Bay changed course over thousands of years. These give perfect natural drainage to the vines, similar to the gravelly soils of Bordeaux’s Medoc. At the heart of the region are the Havelock Hills Vineyards – the first legally-protected vineyards in New Zealand – renowned for producing wines with great balance, power and elegance. Te Mata’s Awatea, Elston and Coleraine Vineyards are all here, as is the winery – so most grapes travel only tiny distances from vine to bottle.

Te Mata is New Zealand’s oldest winery, founded in 1896. It has been family owned ever since. It is widely considered as the country’s one and only “first growth” and is most famous for producing a single vineyard Bordeaux blend called Coleraine. This is New Zealand’s only acknowledged “fine wine”, with an exceptional pedigree going back to its first vintage in 1982.  

John Buck OBE purchased Te Mata in 1974 after several years of searching for the perfect vineyard site. The Te Mata vineyards at the time were rather neglected, but John was attracted by their wonderful history – these vineyards were originally planted back in 1892 – and great potential for producing top quality reds. It came with a small, run-down winery which over recent years has been fully renovated and rebuilt. The winery is now a beautiful, state of the art facility which is fully equipped to vinify and mature the Estate’s great wines!

The vineyards and winery are managed 100% sustainably – Te Mata was one of the first producers in the country to be accredited by the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Programme back in 1995.

The Buck family’s ambition has been very clear since the start – for Te Mata’s wines to be recognised as amongst the finest in the world. And so far they are achieving these goals very successfully! Over the last few years they have been variously described as “New Zealand’s greatest winery” by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate,  “a national treasure” by jancisrobinson.com and “New Zealand’s First Growth” by the UK’s Decanter Wine magazine.

But maybe New Zealand’s much repected “Cuisine” wine magazine puts it best:

“If there was Kiwi wine aristocracy, Te Mata would be it. Nestled in the foothills of the Te Mata heritage zone, they make some of the best wines in the country. Independent, family-owned, exclusively Hawke’s Bay, and committed to making premium wine on site.’

How the wines are made

Elston Chardonnay

Produced since 1984, Elston is grown on the estate’s oldest vines on hillsides overlooking the winery. The grapes are fully hand harvested from their separate, individual plots of vines, carefully sorted then fermented in a mix of new and seasoned French oak barrels. The wine then spends 10 months after fermentation resting on its lees in barrel to gain further complexity and depth.

Estate Vineyards Syrah and Bullnose Syrah

Syrah is possibly New Zealand’s most under-appreciated – and undervalued – grape. Te Mata were to a large extent the pioneers in producing fine quality Syrah in New Zealand and their Bullnose Syrah is one of the country’s top examples. Bullnose is grown on the second oldest Syrah vineyards in New Zealand, planted in 1989 and 1990, and its first vintage was 1992.  The Estate Vineyards Syrah come from a mix of Te Mata’s own vineyards.

The Syrah grapes for both wines are destemmed and given a traditional, warm-plunged fermentation. The resulting wines undergo extended maceration on skins before pressing and then a secondary malolactic fermentation. The separate wines are then matured in a mixture of new and seasoned French oak barriques for 8 months in the case of the Estate Syrah and 15 months for the Bullnose.

Awatea Cabernet Merlot

First made in 1982, Awatea is generally seen as the second wine to Te Mata’s flagship Bordeaux blend, Coleraine. The grapes for this wine are hand harvested and destemmed before a traditional warm, plunged fermentation with extended maceration on the skins to gain tannins, colour and structure. The resulting wines are then aged for 16 months in seasoned French oak barrels, blended, then returned to barrel for a further 8 months’ oak maturation.