Wine leg­ends

Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Decanter - - CONTENTS - by Stephen Brook

Te Mata, Col­eraine, Hawke’s Bay 1998

A leg­end be­cause…

Although New Zealand is best known for its cool-cli­mate wines – no­tably Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, Chardon­nay and Pinot Noir – it has been recog­nised for some time that Hawke’s Bay is par­tic­u­larly well suited to weight­ier reds, such as Bordeaux-style blends and Syrah. The de­vel­op­ment of the Gim­blett Grav­els zone put these wines on the map, but the Buck fam­ily at Te Mata had started to fo­cus on such styles years be­fore that. From 1982, the first vin­tage, Col­eraine has been Te Mata’s finest ex­pres­sion of the Bordeaux style and the most avidly col­lected of New Zealand red wines.

Look­ing back

John Buck was still very much in charge of this im­por­tant estate in 1998, although today his son Ni­cholas is deeply in­volved. John bought the prop­erty in 1974, as it was al­ready planted with vine­yards widely re­garded as among the finest in Hawke’s Bay. Indeed these sites, known col­lec­tively as the Have­lock Hills Vine­yards, were first es­tab­lished in 1892, and by 1909 it was the coun­try’s largest vine­yard. In the late 1970s Buck, with ex­pe­ri­ence gained in the Bri­tish wine trade be­fore re­turn­ing to his na­tive land, re­de­vel­oped the vine­yards and win­ery.

The vin­tage

After a wet win­ter, the grow­ing sea­son was very dry and one of the hottest on record. Flow­er­ing in early De­cem­ber de­liv­ered a po­ten­tially large crop, so bunches had to be thinned. The vine­yards had be at­ten­tively man­aged to avoid de­hy­dra­tion and stress, but the fruit for Col­eraine was ex­em­plary, with Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon the most im­pres­sive of the three com­po­nent va­ri­eties.

The ter­roir

The soils in Hawke’s Bay are var­ied, but Col­eraine is planted on north-fac­ing, sand­stone-based al­lu­vial gravel. The first vines were planted in 1979, with the cho­sen va­ri­eties be­ing Caber­net Franc, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Mer­lot. The vine­yard is har­vested by hand, then the grapes are sorted at the win­ery, to elim­i­nate any sub-stan­dard fruit. Ini­tially Col­eraine was a sin­gle-vine­yard wine, but since 1989 it has been a se­lec­tion from the best plots in the Have­lock Hills Vine­yards.

The wine

For 35 years Peter Cow­ley has been Te Mata’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, and thus re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing how Col­eraine was made. The grapes are destemmed and crushed, be­fore be­ing fer­mented for up to 21 days in open-top vats at tem­per­a­tures up to 32°C, with reg­u­lar punch­downs. After an ex­tended mac­er­a­tion, the wine goes into French bar­riques, of which 70% are new, for 18-24 months; the 1998 was aged for 20 months. Rack­ing is per­formed from bar­rel to bar­rel. Be­fore bot­tling, the wine is tra­di­tion­ally fined with egg whites.

The re­ac­tion

In 2009 Huon Hooke re­marked: ‘Col­eraine is ar­guably New Zealand’s great­est red wine’. Shortly after re­lease Pierre Ro­vani re­viewed the 1998 for The Wine Ad­vo­cate: ‘Ex­plo­sive black-fruit aro­mas…vel­vety tex­tured, this im­pres­sive wine coats the palate with black­ber­ries, black­cur­rants and freshly laid as­phalt.’ After a ver­ti­cal tast­ing in Lon­don in 2007, Steven Spurrier wrote: ‘Of the older wines, 1998 was out­stand­ing, fra­grant, flo­ral, with a fine fu­ture.’

In 2012 James Suck­ling pro­nounced: ‘This is the leg­endary Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Mer­lot blend of NZ. A lovely com­bi­na­tion of fruit, tobacco, liquorice and dried flower. New Zealand’s Sas­si­caia.’

In 2016, Cameron Dou­glas MS noted: ‘A se­duc­tive, al­most heady per­fume: soft vi­o­let scents nes­tled against the residue of the Caber­net with a quiet tobacco and earthy layer. The tan­nins were fully in­te­grated and the acid­ity en­sured the wine re­tained some tex­ture and length.’

THE FACTS

Bot­tles pro­duced 25,000 Com­po­si­tion 60% Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, 32% Mer­lot, 8% Caber­net Franc Yield 50hl/ha Al­co­hol 13.5% Re­lease price NZ$75 Price today NZ$250 (£ 138)

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