Usually, verticals have a purpose. An excuse for the winery to show off a wine, launch a new one, or just to remind everyone how good something used to be. But sometimes, a vertical has no purpose at all besides drinking aged wine – and that was how this Te Mata Estate Coleraine vertical came about.
Put on by the Air New Zealand wine program to show off some of the great Kiwi wines in their cellar, this was an opportunity to open nearly every Te Mata Estate Coleraine produced, followed by a vertical of nearly every Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah ever produced.
What a tasting. Sign me up!
Coleraine is one of the few NZ wines that I have multiple bottles of in the cellar, and easily my favourite non-Pinot Kiwi red. A wine that is every bit NZ’s ‘First growth’, with a history that dates all the way back to 1896 and a reputation for unwavering consistency. A consistency that is all the more remarkable for a sometimes marginal region for Cabernet-based reds.
Named after the original vineyard planted to the same proportions as Chateau Margaux, Coleraine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Before 1989 it was a single vineyard wine, after that a blend of grapes from across the Te Mata Estate vineyards.
For this vertical, the wines were all either purchased at auction (with some bottles topped up if necessary) or from the wine program cellars and checked before the tasting at the winery.
That attention to detail meant that there were no bad wines in this vertical. Just glory. Please world, make every vertical like this.
Notes are as written on the day and we went through the wines v. quickly so they’re pretty rough impressions. Still, there is no disguising the pleasure of so many of the wines here. Hawke’s Bay goes to Bordeaux indeed. Personally, I prefer the moderate years, as the riper vintages can look a bit soft. The best wines are so varietal, yet they’re ripe and layered wines too.
Sometimes large verticals are a chore and you find yourself stuck in a trough when winemaking fashions change. But this collection was punctuated with pleasurable wines so regularly that it was a joy.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1982
First crop. Tea leaves, brick dust and ironstone. Fully mature and graceful if a bit stewed through the middle and a little warmth to finish. Pleasant, if a bit advanced. Classic lines. Like an old Australian Cab. This is great. The dusty tannins are a delight. What a first wine! 18.5/20, 94/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1983
Less tea leaf. More plump red berry fruit. It’s really quite jubey, black jubes in a lovely form. There’s a hint of bracken but really quite chunky and with ripe tannins. Fully mature but with life yet. Maybe a bit rounded? A standout for its years. A lovely broad Coleraine. 18/20, 93/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1984
Liqueur raspberry dipped in tilled black dirt. It’s a palate punctuated by more of that black dirt and more bacony. A less clean year, and there’s a little baked tomato. Lesser in this lineup. Slightly sour finish indicative of mixed ripeness. 16.8/20, 89/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1985
Cooked tomato, slightly medicinal though apparently a riper year. This feels very varietal and defined, if a little raw and firm to finish. I love the grace of this wine despite the development. The finish is what brings you back despite the tomato. 18/20, 93/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1986
Plenty of oak in this lineup, a little Bounty bar but with some veges too. A plumper wine, though there is just a slight medicinal edge. Tomato bush but luscious too. It’s a little sweet and sour to finish. Good without being great. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1987
Developed nose, dusty and with plenty of classic cedary varietal Cab. Excellent definition – this feels very Bordeaux like in its regal flavours. Mid weight but it has a chunkiness through. Find prominent tannins. Regal, mature and in a lovely place. Reminds me of ‘86 Coonawarra. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1988
Riper. Pencil shavings and more oak sweetness. Less cedar, more blackberry. I find this just a bit plump and ripe with noticeable warmth (and some caramel). Perhaps not the grace of other years, but attractive. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1989
End of the single vineyard Coleraine, and varietal proportions changed. A masculine wine that could almost be from a different climate. Less acidity, more ripe, almost red fruit. Plump fruit and even fuller than the 89 with more diffuse tannins. Pleasant, without being great. 17/20, 90/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1990
Round and diffuse with warm fruit and a little cooked finish. Bold and full but it feels developed with some cough medicine edges. Lesser perhaps in context. The finish is developing fast. 16.8/20, 89/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1991
Dark colour and still looks very primary. It’s a big wine but doesn’t lose its shape through the finish. It feels much younger than the wines around it. A different shade – a ripe wine with soft tannins but good acid balance. A standout and so approachable. 18/20, 93/100.
(No Coleraine in 1992 or 1993 due to Mount Pinatubo eruption).
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1994
Again that more regal varietal nose. Cedar and a little twinge of leaf. Perfectly poised, Bordeaux-like palate. Even and delicious it’s a great classic Cabernet Merlot style. 18.7/20, 95/100
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1995
Generous and quite bold, there’s more noticeable warmth here, more oak sweetness too. It’s a warm year wine and despite the plump middle not quite the definition on the palate. Good, without being great. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1996
More noticeable oak. This feels more in the mode of the style, elegant, spice and quite refreshing energetic acidity. Even and ripe. If the oak would integrate further it would be even better. I liked this classic mode. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1997
Riper, plump and coffeed. It’s all mid palate with hints of caramel and then the alcohol picks up. I prefer this less, purely because it’s a bit broad and yet the tannins aren’t defined – just falls away a bit. Drink sooner. 16.8/20, 89/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1998
A masculine wine of quite some tannins. Very much a youthful wine too – it’s chunky and powerful – like 98 Aussies. But retains the definition of tannins like the more subtle years. Very good. 18.5/20, 94/100
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 1999
A hint of Bolognaise, it’s a thicker, hotter wine with more oomph and weight but just a little bit warm. Less grace, more impact. Good but not sublime. Like the 1989. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2000
The vanilla bean oak impact is more noticeable here, as is the alcohol. I think I like it less because it’s a bit smudgy – I want a little bit more prettiness not warmth. Like 1997. 17.5/20, 91/100
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2001
Much better. Grainy and compact, the tannins are denser and grainy, tannins are the star of the show here – it’s quite backward. I really like this even flow of this – a powerhouse, if not strictly elegant. So much to come! What a wine. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2002
Quite forward and a bit chunky. I found this a bit coffeed and ripe with caramel roundness. I like the bold and warm edge slightly less. Soft tannins, but feels a bit diffuse. 17/20, 90/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2003
More leaf and grip here. Lots of tannins. This is an unusual wine – it seems to lack the power of other wines and is largely tannin driven. Nice lines, but is it classic? It feels too firm for that. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2004
‘A new Coleraine’. Includes replanted material and different vine age. A excellent wine. There’s a flashiness to it, lifted by vanilla buttercake oak, the palate a ripe and masculine style but with some developed edges. Perhaps a little too chunky, and the oak is quite an impact. But no doubting the concentration here. A proper flagship even if I don’t find it as elegant. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2005
This could almost be Australian. Volatile with a little leaf litter, this is warm hearted and just a little caramel forward, though the finish is better balanced than some of the hottest years. 17/20, 90/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2006
Better. The licoricey fruit is supported by masculine tannins and a vague vanilla oak lacquer. Full throttle oak and full flavours, but has the structure to carry it off. A classic. 18/20, 93/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2007
More subtle and has a little black texta and tapenade compete with a little mint. This feels classic again and with not a hair out of place. It’s the very definition of a classic Coleraine. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2008
Excellent. Still coming together and bound by tannins. A bigger wine than the 07 but not heavy. Powerful but perhaps too young. A little bit too much power? Drink in a few yrs. 18.5/20, 94/100+.
(No Coleraine in 2012 due to low yields).
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2009
Wafts of caramel, a little volatile. A more forward wine. Lots of alcohol and then oak tannins. Apparently checked but is this a great bottle? It’s forward and a little stewed. Lesser. 16.8/20, 89/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2010
Poised. Tomato leaf, more acidity and more quite crunchy red fruit. Medium weight, backward and still coming together. This is in the zone. Will be one of the best. 18.7/20, 95/100+
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2011
Licoricey and welcome back blackcurrant fruit. The tannins are just a little raw but has a certain width to the mid palate. More Franc this year? There are extra bits of bright red fruit and it feels so vivid and bright. Delightful. 18.5/20, 94/100+
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2013
Hazelnut and kirsch, it’s a bold and powerful red. Perhaps less subtle and a bit of a hammer fist, with a bitter punch to it too. Maybe a little bit too hefty? Good but very much in a flux. Will it ultimately become one of the broader warmer wines? 18/20, 93/100+.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2014
Classical. Edges of mint here and it’s much more medium weight and cooler. Perfect balance for mine and the acidity feels so perfect. High class. Maybe just a little softened on the finish? Very good. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2015
This feels like a powerhouse. A wine that balances out its tannins with rampant power. A bigger wine after the last red, with more oak topping out the style. Is it better than 14? I’m not sure. Powerful. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2016
Less ripeness, more coiled power. Reminds of the composure of the 14 here. It’s still bound up in its oak but the kicker is the acid feels more natural this vintage. More elegance and a real perfect smoothness here. Really generous in its round appeal and then seamless tannins. Very fine. One of the best. 18.7/20, 95/100.
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With a history that dates back to 1896? Surely this can’t be right?