$33 - Havelock Hills, Hawkes Bay
Of all the wines made by Te Mata in Havelock North, Awatea has always been my favourite. This is for a lot of reasons. I was recently invited to the release of Te Mata's 2013 Estate Range and their 2012 NAMED Range (for want of a better description) and so was able to try the impressive 2012 vintage.
The 2013 Estate Range showcases just how good the 2013 vintage was but also showcases Te Mata's consistency at this price range (around the $20 mark). They are wines that over deliver and I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay and Syrah but that is not what I am here to talk about.
2012 was a difficult vintage for Hawkes Bay, and Te Mata have made an exceptional song and dance about their demarcation of Coleraine (their premium Cabernet Blend) fruit saying things along the lines of 'we managed to produce some but we would not be able to satisfy demand for it so have blended it into Awatea'. I can't think of any serious producer releasing their top Hawkes Bay reds (especially Cabernet and blends) from 2012. Why would you? It was a cold vintage and there simply would not be the ripeness, extraction, concentration and intensity to make truly fine wine which is what is expected in the $50+ category. I guess what I am trying to say here is that what Te Mata have done by blending Coleraine fruit into Awatea is nothing special or unusual. Their song and dance about it is disingenuous at best. Truth be told there are some bloody exceptional and excellent value 2nd and 3rd tier wines out of 2012 for those very reasons.
To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of Coleraine and in the past have sold my fair share of it but am a huge fan of the whites (which are consistently good and the '12s surprisingly so considering the vintage) and the Bullnose in good years (I will pass on the '12). Awatea, to me, has always been where it's at. It always has an amazing wildness, a hint of pine resin and similarity with the wines of Saint Estephe in Bordeaux. It is also about a third the price of Coleraine for a wine that is, to my mind, just as good, if not better some years; unless of course you are prepared to cellar the wine for a decade or more. Even then I have had many better bottles of old Awatea than of Coleraine. (But this could have more to do with my budget and my preferences)
The '12 Awatea has a nose wound tight with hints of the blackest cassis, subdued hiding violet florals and a toasty, smoky, cigar like oak note. It is tight on the palate as well; integrated and balances power, grace and structure. To me it is a textbook Bordeaux blend from a difficult vintage but certainly the wine making team has done well to compensate for this. Over time it opened up to unravel layer upon layer of densely packed fruit, cocoa, the aforementioned pine resin, cedar and burnt earth all balanced by harmony between fine acid and tannin.
For the $30 price tag it is exceptional wine but the cool vintage does shows so not everyone will love it, the higher levels of acidity should help it age and it should last a decade.
In two words: Tight, classy.