From south to north, the verdict is delicious
of how that grape grows in that place, and as a farmer I also want to capture that.”
This insight can be tasted in his wines. Those labelled Jeunesse, made from younger vines that tend to produce grapes with plenty of olfactory stimulus, are pretty and eager to please: the 2014 Jeunesse riesling (about $40) is crisp, fresh, citrussy, delightful; the 2013 Jeunesse pinot noir ($65) is bright, bursting with red fruit and a Campari-like edginess.
The wines labelled Mature Vine, by contrast, from older blocks in the vineyard, where the roots of the plants have had longer to dig deep into the schist-rich terroir, are less overtly aromatic but far more expressive and complex in the mouth. The 2013 Mature Vine riesling ($50) sits like a lozenge of pear and white grape flavour on the tongue; the 2012 Mature Vine pinot noir ($80) has a remarkable, lingering depth of flavour, with brooding dark fruit and firm but supple tannin.
Up in Hawkes Bay in the North Island, Peter Cowley has been winemaker at Te Mata Estate for a quarter of its 120-year history.
Te Mata has lovely wines in its range made from grape varieties that aren’t common in New Zealand: the 2014 Zara Viognier ($36) is gently floral, like honeysuckle, quite different to most pungent, fruit-rich Australian examples of this white; the 2015 Gamay Noir ($24) is a gorgeously juicy red that’s so good it makes you wonder why more Kiwi winemakers don’t plant it; and the 2014 Bullnose ($53) is as taut, refined and spicy an example of New Zealand syrah as you could find.
But as Cowley says, “Te Mata has always believed that cabernet and merlot are particularly strong in Hawkes Bay — and even though they might be so trendy right now, we’re used to riding waves of popularity.”
To make his point he pours the reds he makes from these varieties, and they are stunning. The 2014 Te Mata Estate Merlot Cabernets ($25) is wonderfully elegant, fragrant and snappy, a great value “claret”; and the 2013 Awatea (around $40), a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, is one of the best reds I’ve tried this year: layers of earthy dark fruit, fine balance of intense flavour and grippy tannin. Superb.