Terroir describes that mystical, indefinable essence in every bottle of a great wine: the distillation of the place it comes from – the soil, climate, weather, aspect of the vineyard. For the makers of New Zealand’s most famous red wine, terroir includes another unique ingredient: family.
Te Mata Estate is New Zealand’s oldest wine estate. The Te Mata barrel halls and vineyards, on the slopes and limestone soils beneath the jagged peaks of Hawke’s Bay’s Havelock Hills, have seen more than 120 years of grape-growing and wine-making.
The estate dates to 1892, when cabernet, merlot, chardonnay and pinot noir grapes were planted. The first vintage was harvested in 1896 and by 1907 the estate was winning gold medals across the globe for chardonnays and cabernets.
Te Mata Estate has never looked backwards. Under the Buck and Morris families, it has been at the forefront of New Zealand’s wine industry for the past 40 years. It introduced viognier, pioneered gamay noir, and has the second-oldest planting of syrah in the country.
Today the estate is in the more-than-capable hands of three generations of the Buck family. Grandfather and chairman, John Buck, headed the Wine Institute of New Zealand, is a member of the country’s Wine Hall of Fame, and is a long-time judge of New Zealand’s wine awards.
The second generation has diverse interests in the business: John’s son Nick was appointed CEO in 2012, Jonathan is the vineyard manager, and Tobias is sales and marketing manager. Their children, Zara, Thomas and Henry, all work at the winery.
The family values are expressed in the wines. Te Mata has always been dedicated to quality, and the finest expression of each vintage. The estate produces 11 wines that reward careful cellaring with complexity, structure and balance. Grapes are hand-harvested from its vineyards. Only the top fruit is used, and everything is bottled on-site.
The estate uses 30 parcels of land across nine vineyard sites in Hawke’s Bay. Its winery is situated in the north-facing, elevated slopes of the Te Mata Special Character Zone – the first site in New Zealand to be legally protected for its viticultural history.
Named after the Buck family’s ancestral home in Ireland, Te Mata’s flagship wine, Coleraine, is regarded as the country’s finest red. First made in 1982, Coleraine was an instant sensation. It was originally a single vineyard wine, but from 1989 Coleraine it has been an assemblage of the finest cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc wines from Te Mata’s vineyards. Coleraine is released each year on March 1 and usually sells out within days.
More than a century on from its first vintage, Te Mata’s wines are available in 45 countries and recognised internationally as among the world’s finest. And it’s not only the critics who are impressed: Te Mata wines have been served and presented to Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and the Queen.
For the Buck family, it’s a remarkable heritage to pass on to future generations. As Nick Buck says, “We remain independent and family owned, proud of our unique story, and committed to the future of New Zealand fine wine on the international stage.”
Te Mata Estate Winery, 349 Te Mata Rd, Havelock North
Open from November-April:
Open from May-October:
Visit temata.co.nz for more details.