It Was A Very Good Year
When I was 17, it was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
We’d hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was 17
So sung Frankie Sinatra back in… well, let’s just say it was a long time ago. In this case, the actual year the song was performed doesn’t matter as the emotion behind the lyrics is timeless.
But then again, there are also times when a date is very important indeed – mainly because it is a big flashing neon sign telling us something exceptionally cool and exciting is inside. One such year is 2020, certainly in wine terms and even more so when you’re talking about Te Mata.
Let’s talk about 2020
While the rest of us may have mixed feelings about the Lockdowns et al, the good folk at Te Mata certainly remember the result of 2020’s harvest fondly, especially when it comes to their Elston Chardonnay and the Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc releases. They say it was a very early and exceptional vintage which led to the white grape varieties being harvested by the first week of March in beautiful condition, along with moderate to good sugar levels. Picking decisions that year were made more around flavours and acidity; as they discovered ripe acidity at lower sugars so the freshness was maintained. That meant it was a very good year indeed for Te Mata Estate’s two top premium white wines:
Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc ’20
This blend of 85% sauvignon blanc, 9% semillon and 6% sauvignon gris was hand harvested from individual plots within Te Mata Estate’s vineyards between February and March 2020. The separate parcels were then destemmed and lightly crushed, then cooled before a brief period of skin contact. Then they were run to a mixture of new and seasoned French oak barrels for fermentation with the resulting wine aged on lees, with regular stirring, for a further 11 months before bottling in February 2021.
Gary Walsh of The Wine Front in Australia was certainly a fan of the result describing it as; “Gooseberry, matchstick, passionfruit pith and leaf, fennel. Tight, gooseberry, lime and grapefruit, fine mineral things happening here, chalky and dusty texture, precision and freshness, intense, with very good length, and layer of subtle creaminess and spiced oak. A calmer, more confident expression of Sauvignon in 2020.” He noted that a bit of bottle age will see it improve even further and gave it 94+ points.
Emma Jenkins of The Independent Wine Monthly too found it a truly excellent wine; “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.”
Again hand-harvested from separate, individual plots within Te Mata Estate’s vineyards between February and March 2020, each parcel of grapes was gently whole-cluster pressed, cold settled and racked to new and seasoned French oak barrels for fermentation. The resulting wines remained in contact with their yeast lees, with a number going through malolactic fermentation. The finest lots were selected for further maturation, spending a total of 10 months in barrel.
Catching the eye in a brilliant lemon-gold, the Elston Chardonnay ’20 has a gorgeous aroma of lime blossom, fresh golden nectarine, creamy nougat and delicate meadow flowers. Freshness and ripe acidity shine in a palate laden with peach, citrus, pineapple, and oyster shell highlights.
The Wine Front’s Gary Walsh was again standing at the front of the line with glass in hand; “Ripe, peach and nectarine, a little exotic too, with spicy cinnamon/nutmeg and cedar oak, floral notes and a little fennel frond. It’s rich in flavour, a subtle sizzle of hazelnuts in butter, but also flinty and firm, a wee bit of tropical fruit, but again firm and chalky on a long finish that has lime rind zing along with lemon butter richness. Lovely.”
The year in a bottle
2020 may have had its ups and downs, but the downs are just memories whilst the upsides have all been captured in Te Mata Estate bottles. This vintage in particular shows that Hawke’s Bay’s temperate, seaside climate can make truly great white wines that go really well with friends, family, fresh fish, crayfish – and soft summer nights. So well in fact, that if Frankie Sinatra was still around, he’d be singing their praises for future generations to enjoy too.
Discover more from Te Mata Estate by visiting their website.