Summer, the time to stop all the hurrying about and at last unwind. It’s also (hopefully) a chance to relax in the sun after a year spent inside getting a Covid tan. But if the weather gods refuse to play ball in the sunshine stakes, then we’ll just have to get some in pre-bottled.
In my misspent youth, I used to escape the dice roll of a Wellington ‘summer’ by hooning up State Highway 2 to hang out in the Hawke’s Bay over the holiday break for some wine and sun – okay, so maybe more than ‘some’, a lot of both! But if you can’t go there in person, the next best thing you can do is to crack open a bottle of Hawke’s Bay’s finest to bring a taste of summer to wherever you are.
‘19 was a very good year
So, if we’re about to do a bit of time travelling, what year should we go to? Hmm, let’s see… how about the summer of 2019? All the Hawke’s Bay winegrowers really liked that one, describing the harvest that year as; “the greatest”, “superb” and even “sublime”. By all accounts it was a warm summer that year which made it perfect for reds. Budbreak, flowering and veraison (colour change) were all early. December was warm, and January very warm, with 10 days around or just over 30 degrees – which is the kind of summer I remember from the Bay.
The good early soil moisture and warm temperatures created big grape canopies while the warm nights lead to very few dews or fogs and all this dry, settled weather allowed all the grapes to be picked at ideal ripeness in a far more cruisy fashion than usual. They were picked every day from mid-March to mid-April and showed terrific flavour, colour and tannin the whole way through.
2019 was also the first of a three-year run of exceptional vintages at Hawke’s Bay powerhouse Te Mata Estate with Michael Cooper of the NZ Listener definitely being a fan, describing their flagship wines as ‘five-star’ and their reds as being; ‘of arresting quality: generous, ripe, rich and rounded, with the potential to mature gracefully for many years.’
He was not alone, Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas raved about the purple colour of the Bullnose Syrah ’19 noting it had a ‘Rhone-like bouquet with spices and meats, dark berries and oak follow. Fantastic bouquet overall. Warm and generous on the palate – flavours of dark berries and spices. Raspberry and barrel spices of vanilla and clove. Firm tannins and high acidity. Excellent wine. 95 points.’
Sam Kim of Wine Orbit agreed; ‘The wine exhibits a great degree of elegance as well as opulence and gutsy substance. The sweetly fragrant bouquet shows Black Doris plum, violet, cedar and game characters with a touch of pepper spice. It’s weighty and sumptuous on the palate displaying awesome fruit purity and silky mouthfeel, wonderfully framed by loads of polished tannins. A stunning rendition of the variety. 98 points.’
Both also thought the Bullnose Syrah ’19 would age beautifully over time, being at its best in ten years or even more.
It was a similar story from both reviewers for the Awatea Cabernets/Merlot ’19 with Cameron Douglas finding it ‘very youthful and concentrated with dark berries and clove vanilla oak, smoky and forward, varietal and urgent. Great wine – young and needs time, but has power and muscle I have not really noticed before. Spicy plums and dark berries, black berry and black currant. Firm tannins and acidity, youthful, focused, high energy and very exciting. 96 points.’
Sam Kim too liked the blend of 46% cabernet sauvignon, 32 merlot & 22 cabernet Franc that is the Awatea Cabernets/Merlot ’19; ‘Instantly satisfying and inviting on the nose, showing blackcurrant, dried herb, floral and spicy oak characters, leading to a delectably expressed palate that’s filled with dark and red fruit flavours with a discreet oak infusion. Offering excellent structure and immense drinkability at the same time, it’s hugely charming and enticing. 96 points.’
The perfect gift
As both critics have pointed out, both the Te Mata Bullnose Syrah ’19 and the Awatea Cabernets/Merlot ’19 are wines that will get even better with age; for over a decade with the Syrah and over the next few years with the Cabernets/Merlot. This makes them ideal for gifting for that special someone – or to be kept on hand ready for a momentous occasion – like a wedding or graduation – as they will only increase in value over time. Either way, these are flagship wines from a top notch red wine specialist who has managed to completely capture the flavour of a truly great summer for us to remember for years to come.
Visit Te Mata Estate’s website to purchase.