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edited by Sue Courtney

A Vertical of Coleraine
© Sue Courtney
Last Updated: 13 Mar 2011

Te Mata Coleraine, a classic Hawkes Bay blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, is widely regarded as one of New Zealand best reds.

First released as Coleraine in 1982, from then until 1988 the wine was made entirely from the sloping and picturesque Coleraine vineyard that surrounds John and Wendy Buck's home on the northern slopes of the towering Te Mata peak.

From 1989 an assortment of growing sites immediately added a complexity to the resulting wine with the original Coleraine vineyard still regarded as the best source for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Te Mata Coleraine has been made by Peter Cowley (pictured) since 1985. He is now Te Mata Estate's Group Technical Director.

At "Evolution" held in Auckland on the 24th May 2003, the wines from 1989 to 2000 were tasted.

In a vertical tasting wines are sometimes tasted youngest to oldest to show how the wine evolves over time. In younger wine producing countries such as New Zealand it is often oldest to youngest (as in vertical Port tastings) for several reasons. Quality is improving as winemakers gain a better understanding of the vineyards and the seasonal variations, grapevines develop age and better clonal selections have been introduced. It also depends on the way the vintages fall. In this instance there were two very strong recent vintages - 1998 and 2000 - from hot, drought years. Having these wines first would have overpowered the older wines and the wines from cooler years.

Later vintages are posted at the end of this article - scroll down or click here.

The wines were tasted in two flights

First Flight

1989 Coleraine
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc
Clear garnet red with fading rims. Fairly closed on the nose, a little meaty, cedary, lovely development, Bordeaux-like, sweet oak with a vanillin lift, licorice, concentrated fruit that has evolved and integrated, tar, spice, dried fruits, currant, cherry, olives. Good acidity has kept this wine fresh. Fine silky tannins. Based on a bottle opened later and consumed over dinner from a designer glass, there is still plenty of life in this wine if cellared in the right conditions although it is probably nearing its peak right now.
12.5% alc, pH 3.52, 6.6 gpl total acidity.

1990 Coleraine
54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
Clear garnet red with fading pink rims. Funky, meaty, tarry, farmyard aromas with pencil shavings and a momentary floral note. Dark, savoury, leathery and earthy, lots of tar, integrated spices, sweet oak, currant and prune fruit, silky tannins and very good length. Sweet and ripe but overall just a little thin in its structure. An elegant wine that flows across the palate but perhaps past its peak.
12% alc, pH 3.4, 6.0 gpl total acidity.

1991 Coleraine
59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc
Brightly coloured intense black red with rich red rims, this is immensely attractive with cedary oak, cherries and fruitcake spices on the nose. It's sweet fruited in the mouth with cherries, musk, spices, nutmeg, red licorice and huge velvety tannins. Heaps of structure, still very youthful in colour and flavour with a lovely evolution of secondary flavours. Ripe and concentrated, this is an immensely sumptuous wine, just delicious to drink right now with plenty of cellaring life still ahead of it. A top wine from a top vintage.
13% alc, pH 3.55, 5.6 gpl total acidity.

1992 Coleraine
Not made due to climatic influences from the Pinutabo eruptions.

1993 Coleraine
Not made, ditto.

1994 Coleraine
74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc
Deep red with paling rims. Tarry, leathery, savoury, farmyard aromas, the nose loses some of its dark characters and lets some fruit emerge with swirling. Well integrated oak, fairly big slightly drying tannins, chocolate, tar, leather and liquorice, sweetish macerated cherry and currants build to a savoury finish with rosemary-like herbs, olives, leather and tar. Sweet currant-like fruit lingers with liquorice spices. Ready now.
12.5% alc, pH 3.6, 5.8 gpl total acidity.

1995 Coleraine
59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc
Deep red, pinkish hues full to the rims. Subtle cedary aromas with an attractive rose-petal muskiness. Sweet-fruited, lifted and elegant with leather, tobacco, cigar box, nutmeg, concentrated cassis, a touch of citrus and pepper joining the spices on the finish. Savoury oak. Firm, silky-textured tannins. Good acidity. Lovely sweet musk fills the mouth with a rich velvety mouth-filling vinosity and the flavours linger magnificently. This is a classic example of a great New Zealand wine. Still unfolding.
13% alc, pH 3.62, 5.3 gpl total acidity.

I rated the wines from the first flight in this order
1991, 1995, 1989, 1990, 1994

Second Flight

1996 Coleraine
53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc
Developed red with bramble berry hues. Cassis, currant, fruit-cake cherries on the nose. Flavours of bright primary cherry and cassis fruits overlain with vanilla, sweet tarry leather, cassis, fruit-cake spices, tobacco and toasty oak, this is long, silky, savoury and meaty, a little nuggetty, still quite primary but starting to develop some lovely secondary nuances making it quite complex in flavour. A lovely vinosity and silkiness to the structure, a powerful wine, still developing nicely.
13% alc, pH 3.64, 5.9 gpl total acidity.

1997 Coleraine
55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
Developed red with bramble berry hues. Wow! This is the most aromatic of all the wines with opulent vanillin oak, cherries, cassis, hints of liquorice, mocha, chocolate, stewed plums and caramel on the intriguing nose. In the mouth rich velvety tannins overlie sweet cassis fruit, currants and spices. A caramel flavour sweetens the wine and a spicy mocha and plum flavour fills out the length. Savoury, tarry notes with some leathery overtones start to come forth. A generous, sweet and succulent wine that is tasty and different. Will age well.
13% alc, pH 3.75, 5.9 gpl total acidity.

1998 Coleraine
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc
A deep black-red of impenetrable depth, with the translucency of deep red garnets only on the rims, chocolately oak and leather aromas with hints of cassis and vanilla do not really reveal too much of the treasure within. It's a huge, huge wine, thick and leathery with concentrated cassis and plum fruit, still very closed. Lots of swirling brings out prune, currant, cassis, spice, cigar, tobacco and dark, meaty savoury flavours with a hint of rosemary. The wine has a lovely sweet dense richness and an overriding ripe fruit character that is overlain with chocolatey oak. Violets, musk and aniseed emerge to linger.
The tannins in this 98 Coleraine are so immense you could, as Peter Cowley says, "eat and drink this wine". Undoubtably years of life ahead of this wine, in many ways it is not even near approachable yet.
13.5% alc, pH 3.79, 5.6 gpl total acidity.

1999 Coleraine
51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc
Black-red, a little pale and more developed that the wines it sits between and not as immensely opaque. Opulent primary cassis aromas with fruitcake cherry supported by cedary oak. Very primary concentrated red fruits, spicy oak and huge silky tannins fill the mouth to be quickly joined with chocolate, blueberries and fruit cake spices. Good acidity addds to the liveliness. Sweet spicy leather, vanilla and sweet fruits fill out the palate with developing savoury nuances lingering on the finish. A wine with a lovely silky vinosity, seamless in its flow throughout.
13.5% alc, pH 3.71, 5.5 gpl total acidity.

2000 Coleraine
52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc
Similar to the 98 in colour but with brighter pink hues on the rime. Complex, rich and inviting aromas of cassis, vanilla, bread, cedar, old spice and tobacco. Another huge wine, very primary, lots of flavour with mocha, spice, cedar, tobacco, cigar box and liquorice characters joining the rich cassis, plum and blueberry fruit. Lovely five spice notes linger on the aromatic, musky finish. Concentrated and long with firm even tannins. Very up and down classic Cabernet flavour with leathery plummy Merlot and the fragrance of the Franc. A terrific blend, perhaps technically better than the 1998. Sweet succulent flavours linger on the biscuity finish. Oh to let it evolve. A beautiful, beautiful wine with many years of life ahead of it.
13% alc, pH 3.81, 5.3 gpl total acidity.

I rated the wines from the second flight in this order
2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996

Wine of the Tasting - 1991 Te Mata Coleraine

* * * * * * * * * *

Te Mata Coleraine Vertical tasting 1981 - 1991

It seems an appropriate time to record my tasting notes from a vertical of Te Mata Coleraine held ten years earlier, in early 1993.

1981 Cabernet Merlot - this was the predecessor to Coleraine but did not have Coleraine on the label.
Colour: garnet, slightly murky. intense colour to watery rim.
Bouquet: Strong, French oak
Taste: Pleasant flavour, sweetish berries and cream, smooth, has more body than the '82. Ready.
Impression: Very good.

1982 Coleraine
Colour: garnet, bright, pale, breaking up on edge.
Bouquet: French-like.
Taste: Slightly tannin with a slight bite. French oak comes through. Cedary, lighter than '81. Sweet berry flavours, portish. Elegant.
Impression: Very good.

1983 Coleraine
Colour: Ruby portish, quite dark garnet red for its age. Youthful, some sediment.
Bouquet: Coffee, integrated oak.
Taste: Lacks something in the palate. Has some body but lacks ripe fruit on the finish. Slight caramelly.
Impression: Disappointing

1984 Coleraine
Not tasted.

1985 Coleraine
Colour: Deep, garnet to red.
Bouquet: faint, closed aromas.
Taste: Good flavour, fullish, sweetish, faint licorice. Good finish.
Impression: Very good.

1986 Coleraine
Colour: Med-light, starting to get a hint of orange.
Bouquet: Herbaceous hints - mint, parsley. Coffee, tobacco.
Taste: Coffee flavour carries through, quite lifted, plenty of alcohol, warm, berry, cidery. Exc. length carries it through.
Impression: Very interesting

1987 Coleraine
Colour: Deeply colour
Bouquet: Dull smelling, lacks fruit on nose. French oak character.
Taste: Disappointing in plate after previous two ('85 and '86). Tastes older than it is. Tannic.
Impression: Disappointing

1989 Coleraine
Colour: Med-deep purple. Pinky / purple rim.
Bouquet: French
Taste: Intense flavour, sweet, licorice, creamy, blackberry / cassis. Exc. finish. very smooth. Good drinking now.
Impression: Excellent

1990 Coleraine
Colour: Med - clear purple red with pink purple rims.
Bouquet: French oak, slightly more obvious.
Taste: Lacks something after the '98. Body? Has some spiciness. Drops away on the finish.
Impression: Disappointing

1991 Coleraine
Colour: Very deep purple with a black centre. 'French opal' rim.
Bouquet: Lacking but some yeastiness and alcohol finesse.
Taste: Spicy, liquorice, rich tannins, sweet and warm, intense in its flavour.
Impression: Excellent

Wine of the Tasting - 1991 Te Mata Coleraine

* * * * * * * * * *

Peter Cowley summarised the older vintages from a 2003 perspective -
1980 Cabernet - an old wine, past its best.
1981 Caberenet Merlot - Hanging in there with fruit sweetness, nice tannins and concentration.
1982 & 1983 Coleraine - both held youthful form for a long time but probably now past their best. But would still be quite pleasurable to those who like old wine.
1984 Coleraine - Light vintage. Past it.
1985 Coleraine - Lovely old claretty wine with a few years left.
1986 Coleraine - Ripe, lighter, Tuscan burnt cherry characters.
1987 Coleraine - Similar to the 1985. In good form.
1988 Coleraine - Past it. Held form for a long time.

* * * * * * * * * *

There is absolutely no doubt that Te Mata Coleraine lives up to its super star reputation and the best results come from a period of cellaring time that is appropriate to the structure of the wine.

© Sue Courtney
24 May 2003

The grapes used in Coleraine

Cabernet Sauvignon provides the backbone of the blend with good strong tannins and good colour.
Merlot is supple with fruit sweetness and good palate weight.
Cabernet Franc gives fragrance and when it is right it can have the suppleness of Merlot and the strength of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Petit Verdot is grown by Te Mata but at this stage has not been used in the blend. It has a fruit cake complexity and may appear in Coleraine at some stage.

Te Mata Coleraine notes of more recent vintages.

I've included these here in order to have all my Coleraine notes on one page.

Te Mata Coleraine 2011 (c) Inky black red with purple flushes to the edges, there's a concentration to the Bdx-character scent and upfront fleshiness to the intriguingly spicy flavours. Fresh and young, with harmonious cedar and cigar box characters, anise herb-like nuances, juicy currant, cherry and purple plum fruit, violets and a dusty savouriness. With tannins that are firm yet fine, this promises to evolve into a majestic wine with time. Opened and double decanted on the morning of the tasting, this is a wine that Nicholas says will be slow to unfold and unwind. Fantastic cellaring proposition. 72% CS, 22% Merlot, 6% CF. 13% alc. $79.99. 13Mar2013.

Te Mata Coleraine 2010 (c) Deep purple red. Beautifully scented with rose/violet florals coming through. Lovely lift and vibrancy to the flavours with dry tannins that have a silky coating that parts occasionally to reveal a velvet lining. This is a young wine, tight in its youth, with concentrated blackcurrant fruit, a creamy richness, lovely sweet savoury oak, herbs, cedar and a long fleshy finish. A baby with a fantastic cellaring proposition, it has many years to go. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc.
14% alc. Cork $69.99. 14Mar2012.

Te Mata Coleraine 2009
The colour is intense, deep purple ruby. The aroma of chocolate, rose petals and fruitcake is complex and intriguing. A huge wine, yet soft from the beginning, it's youthful with noticeable underlying acidity, liquorice, concentrated primary fruit, florals, leather and cedar. A monumental wine with powerful mouth-coating tannins but the huge whack of fruit somewhat tames their grippiness and makes them seem deceptively smooth. There's lovely oak spice coming through and the finish is savoury and long with a fruit sweetness lingering. Outstanding. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. Cork. $64.99 special. 9Mar2011.

Te Mata Coleraine 2008
Dark red black with crimson rims. Tight yet rich, concentrated, vinous berry scents. It looks young, smells young and tastes young with firm tannins, a dry savoury undercurrent, bramble-like fruit, hints of red and black liquorice, a herbal streak and a creamy underlay. A meaty wine, a beefy savoury wine, with hints of tobacco in the distance and concentrated plum and bramble fruit surging through the finish. A blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, and 19% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. Cork. $59.99 special. 17Mar2010.

Te Mata Coleraine 2007
Deep purple red. Smoky, cedar, spice box and blueberry/plum/blackcurrant aroma. A beautiful succulent palate with a fineness to the thick textured velvety tannins. Concentrated red and blackcurrant fruit, a hint of cherry, dried herbs, tobacco, Bordeaux-like cigar box and cedary sweet oak with a spicy, vanillin influence and a long lasting finish. A sumptuous wine and one of the most forward Coleraines that I remember on release. 52% cabernet sauvignon, 14% cabernet franc and 34% merlot with 20 months in predominantly new French oak. 14% alc. $65.99. 4Mar2009.

Te Mata Coleraine 2006
A deep black-cored red with a purple tinge, this deep, intense, brooding wine has an initial smoky, cedary, savoury aroma that soon reveals violets, cassis and lush vanillin oak. Firmly structured, dry and savoury with anise-like spices, ripe red currant fruit and a long and intense finish with a hint of creamy chocolate. The plush cabernet tannins are tight yet the overall impression is one of mellowness. Best to decant for drinking right now, even better to cellar for a couple of years before broaching the super long natural cork. The 25th vintage and a blend of 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $68.99. 12Mar2008.

Te Mata Coleraine 2005
37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% merlot and 18% cabernet franc with maturation in new and seasoned oak for 20 months. Closed on the nose, cedary, savoury- aromatic spices emerge and hints of red berries. The French oak and the spicy character of the oak is what overpowers the wine right now in the palate, the fruit is dark, concentrated, hidden, the fine tannins are powerful and focused, and hints of liquorice, spice and cedar emerge on finish. Cedar is the dominant character on the aftertaste. A wine that is such a baby, it has a lot of growing up to do. However Te Mata is confident that this is the best wine they’ve made. 13.5% alc. Cork closure. Recommended to cellar to 2022. 7Mar2007.

Te Mata Coleraine 2004
Deep in colour, with a dark crimson red-black core. Fragrant and floral with violet and rose petal melding into the cedar and bramble berry scents - a beautiful fragrance, not opulent, just seductive. Beautifully rich and concentrated currant-like fruit with plum and cassis flushed with a touch of liquorice, hints of nutmeg-infused French oak and fine supple tannins. A powerful wine with a tight, dry, leathery finish with mellow cedary notes and rose petals lingering on the beautifully suave aftertaste. With fantastically cellaring potential, this is a very complex wine, deserving of its status as one of New Zealand's top reds. A blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc , 45% Merlot, 14% alc. $59. 15Feb2006.

Te Mata Coleraine 2003
50% Cab Sauv and 50% Merlot. Good depth of colour with an inky red black core and nice gradation of colour to the rims. There's an attractive intensity to the aroma and flavour with huge tannins, hallmark cedary oak, a wonderful threshold of cassis, cherry and plum fruit and a bright finish with winemaking flavours - oak, earth, sweet leather and herbs taking over the finish. It has the concentration, the intensity, the depth of pure fruit, the savouriness, the silkiness of the tannins and the overall balance. Hold and start drinking in 2007. 13.5% alc. $59.95. 12Apr2005.

Te Mata Coleraine 2002
30% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opulent from the outset in both colour and fragrance, it's deeply scented with violets, currants, cedar, spice and concentrated berry fruits. Lovely vinosity and concentration in the silky textured palate, it has the Coleraine signature of harmony. Blackcurrant dominates the fruit profile at first, then blends into plum and currant with woodsmoke. Supple ripe tannins prove a firm backbone while good acidity lifts the finish. Red berries and slightly chocolatey oak linger. Harmonious throughout, it's drinkable at this early stage of its life, the more it sits in the glass the more it opens up and builds in fragrance - the Cabernet Franc is obviously a big factor in this. Note the Merlot dominance this vintage. 14% alc. $62. 24Feb2004.

Te Mata Coleraine 2001
(55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Franc) A black red colour of medium to deep opacity there's smoky French oak with a whiff of exotic spices, tar and sweet leather on the nose. This is a tight, earthy wine with cigar box, tobacco, pencil shavings dominating the flavours at first however vigorous swirling will let the wine open up in the glass. It is a very finely structured wine with silky tannins, concentrated cassis and plum, rosemary, nutmeg, liquorice and spicy French oak that is beautifully integrated throughout. It begs to be drink out of a big glass if you want to drink right now. This is a wine with a deserved super-star image and will definitely reward cellaring. 13.5% alc. $56.95. 21May2003. *****

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