You say Te Mata…

You say Te Mata…

November 22, 2021 0 By emma
2020 Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc $34.00 ★★★★★
2020 Estate Chardonnay $22.00 ★★★☆
2019 Elston Chardonnay $39.00 ★★★★☆
2020 Estate Pinot Noir $29.00 ★★★☆
2020 Alma Pinot Noir $59.00 ★★★★
2019 Bullnose Syrah $75.00 ★★★★☆
2019 Awatea $39.00 ★★★★
2019 Coleraine $130.00 ★★★★★

Te Mata has a long-established and rather enviable reputation in New Zealand but appear not to rest upon their laurels nor resist change. The past few years have seen the passing of the torch from long-time senior winemaker Peter Cowley to Phil Brodie – a seamless transition given Phil’s near 30-year tenure making wine at Te Mata – plus investment in a new processing line and cuverie, and exploration of organic/regenerative agriculture. Long known and admired for their core chardonnay, syrah and Bordeaux blends – a solid collection of Hawke’s Bay staples – the recent release of two pinot noirs was, to me anyway, an interesting development. The lack of regional kudos for the variety and potential risk of a weak link in the well-regarded Te Mata line up made it a rather fascinating choice. At my most cynical I wondered if it helped get a foot in the door in markets for whom all NZ wineries are expected to have a pinot noir?  (Though this is no recent idea – Te Mata’s pinot vines were first planted in 1999.) Obviously, Phil is an astute winemaker and it’s clear he’s passionate about the variety; there’s also no doubt the Te Mata name is enough for many wine drinkers to get on board with a pinot, and the reception has been duly positive. The run of excellent vintages over the past three years meant I approached this tasting (a virtual one with Phil, and commercial sales manager Vince Labat), with anticipation.

The 2020 Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc was a truly excellent wine, and I was keen to taste the 2020. A blend of 85% sauvignon blanc, 9% Semillon and 6% sauvignon gris, pressed into new (30%) and seasoned barrels, it did not disappoint. A powerful nose of blackcurrant leaf, ripe tropical fruit, lime and grapefruit leads to a crisp yet rounded palate with a lovely fine texture. Richness without any heaviness, elegant and pithy, it has a long saline citrussy finish, textural and savoury. Super good. Cape Crest is predominantly exported but Phil says its production is increasing – they see the NZ trade as increasingly confident in this style and actively looking for older vintages. Phil is the only winemaker with whom (unprompted) I have had a detailed discussion of sauvignon clones.

The intention behind the 2020 Te Mata Estate Chardonnay is to showcase the Mendoza fruit, so there is just a touch of barrel fermentation with a tiny bit of new oak, and then maturation on gross lees and a touch of malo. Fresh, ripe and peachy, with lemon curd, greengage and touch of cashew nut, it’s fruity and lighter-bodied, bone dry with good texture – slightly creamy with citrussy tautness on the finish. The nice line of acid and dry savoury finish give a degree of sophistication and subtlety to what is a pretty straightforward wine. This has surely got to be one of the best chardonnay buys around? 

The flagship chardonnay, Elston, has been subtly tweaked via the proportions of fruit from different vineyards and a slight reduction in malo. The 2019 Te Mata Elston Chardonnay is as delicious as ever, a clear step up in concentration and complexity. Quite contained initially, the nose takes a while to unfurl with citrus, white peach and a subtle hint of bran biscuit. The palate is lovely – elegant, silky and savoury with lots of ripe grapefruit. Elston has resisted the trend for showy reduction but doesn’t suffer any lack of depth or complexity for it. Very long, it just gets better in the glass. Top notch Hawke’s Bay chardonnay, remarkably good value too.

From the cooler, inland Woodthorpe Terraces. For this wine, Phil is looking for brightness of red fruits and charm, which are duly delivered. The 2020 Te Mata Estate Pinot Noir light nose of crushed raspberry, red plum and dried herbs and a touch of bacon fat. A juicy fine-textured palate, it’s a fairly simple wine yet with good balance and finesse. Tannins pop up on the finish but are woven in nicely with the fruit. 

The 2020 Te Mata Alma Pinot Noir has a pretty nose with a lift of Campari-like spiciness, lots of sweet raspberry, lavender, then a swirl of baking spice/aniseed and vanilla oak spice. A step up in concentration from the Estate, with a very fine, silky texture, quite fresh and bright on the palate, the ripe tannins add depth and structure. Some charry Mercurey oak evident. Phil thinks the main difference between the two is texturally, which is a fair call. Pretty textbook but with nice finesse, good concentration and a clean, sappy finish. Everything is nicely correct even if it lacks a bit of excitement, that slightly feral edge of pinot at its most interesting. Perhaps in time?

Drawn from three vineyards, the original Bullnose (planted in 1990) plus Hotspur and Isosceles. The 2019 Te Mata Bullnose Syrah has a gorgeous nose with lots of peppery spice, brambly berries, tapenade, some soft vanilla behind, very inviting. The palate is juicy, silky with powdery tannins and good structure and balance. Not big, or funky or edgy, instead it has an elegant charm with energy and precision. Phil says Bullnose typically has a first flush of youth and can then go through a closed phase before opening up again at around 10 years. 

Hard not to love the nose of the 2019 Te Mata Awatea with the distinctive cabernet franc bursting through (it’s 46% cabernet sauvignon, 32% merlot, 22% cabernet franc). Quite dark and brambly with cassis and a touch of tapenade, then perfumed violets and blue fruits. Medium-bodied and freshness, light on its feet with everything pretty much in the right place, though the tannins sit up slightly on the dry, savoury finish. Supple and approachable, it’s the drink-now to Coleraine’s hold-as-long-as-you-can-resist.

By comparison to Awatea, the 2019 Te Mata Coleraine is much less upfront, subdued even, but there’s a strong sense of a lot more waiting in the wings. A blend of 59% cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 4% cabernet franc, it has the classic claret hallmarks with perfumed cigar box, cassis and blackcurrant leaf interwoven with fine French oak (65% new). The palate is beautifully structured, with the interplay between fruit, tannins, and oak spot on – it just gets better as it sits in the glass and then the bottle. I was curious, keeping it on the bench for nearly a week, where it seemed impervious to oxidation, instead continuing to settle into itself nicely. No edges at all but without the sense of having been overly polished either. Super harmonious, very elegant and fine, very long. This is twinsets and pearls, but in the very best way, thoroughly deserving its place amongst New Zealand’s best. (EJ)