New Zealand’s ‘First Growth’: Te Mata Coleraine

A recent vertical tasting in London offered Andy Howard MW the perfect opportunity to examine this seminal New Zealand wine up close...

  • See Five Te Mata Coleraine wine scores and notes

  • Read a profile of Te Mata below Andy Howard MW’s wine notes

Te Mata Estate has been at the forefront of New Zealand wines since John Buck bought the estate in 1974.

With their first vineyard originally commissioned in 1896, this 120th anniversary tasting was hosted in London by chief executive Nick Buck, John’s son.

The wines: A Te Mata Coleraine vertical

More about Te Mata

Located in the Hawkes Bay area, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, the estate today comprises the original historical plantings in the Havelock Hills and, in addition, the Woodthorpe Terraces to the east of Napier and the Bridge Pa Triangle – one of the warmest sites in the Hawkes Bay.

Hawkes Bay

The cool climate of Hawkes Bay

The wine

Coleraine, a classic Bordeaux style red, has been the estate’s top wine since it was first produced in 1982.

At its inception, Coleraine honoured classed growth Bordeaux with a blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, supported by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Extensive maturation in new French oak, great finesse and the ability to age are all hallmarks of this wine.

My early recollection of Coleraine was of the 1989 vintage – a wine that had all the traditional classed growth Bordeaux structure but with an extra hint of New World ripeness and purity that was often missing in the Haut-Medoc equivalents.

Indeed, Nick Buck confirmed that the original intention had been to mirror the top Cru Classé but that today, Coleraine has evolved its own style.

Coleraine is one of New Zealand’s most important, age-worthy wines. Cabernet Sauvignon usually forms 60% of the blend with Merlot around 30% and Cabernet Franc the balance.

Each year sees a different balance, with the final blend chosen by a team of five, including Nick Buck and winemaker Peter Cowley.

Many critics consider it up there with the best Bordeaux blends in the world. Judging by the quality of recent vintages, it seems very unlikely that we will see this change any time soon.

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