When one thinks Cabernet Sauvignon in New Zealand, it invokes one of a small range of responses - Waiheke, Hawkes Bay, and for some people, the colour green.
With the price of Waiheke Cabernet what it is, and Wellington’s nonchalant lack of affinity to the island (unlike our northerly neighbours in the town of many harbours), Arbitrageur’s wine lovers often gravitate towards The Bay.
Although Gimblett Gravels district has taken centre stage for most of the past decade, and not entirely without reason for there have been some spectacular Cabernet Sauvignons given life off the Gravels (Sacred Hill’s Helmsman 2007, anyone?), there are other areas which produce excellent elegant ripe Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines (Te Awanga’s Elephant Hill Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2008 springs to mind), including a winery which has been there from almost the beginning - Te Mata Vineyard.
If there was a roster of New Zealand’s First Families of Wine, Te Mata would be a firm candidate to represent Hawkes Bay Cabernet.
Over the years, they have produced a string of amazingly complex, structured, and elegant wines; initially from the Awatea and Coleraine vineyards and over the past two decades, under those same labels although they are now blends across their estate’s vineyards. In a blind horizontal of 1986 Left Bank Bordeaux, the 1986 Coleraine served as a ringer and showed respectably well against all but the super-seconds and first growths (the exuberantly flamboyant Mouton-Rothschild stole the show, as expected!) 1988 Coleraine still held its depth and dark colour in a recent tasting, and the 1991 Awatea has always been one of the great value-priced Cabernets of New Zealand’s history (although it is a bit less affordable at auction now). The crown jewel, in my mind, is still the 1998 Coleraine, with its brooding tannins, immense concentration and power, and depth of flavour.
BUT, enough reminiscing, this morning, Guillaume and I pulled the Awateas and Coleraines in the cellar together into a long vertical of New Zealand’s First Family of Cabernet. We have on the board 1990, 1993 and 1994 Awatea, 1988, 1990, 1998, 2003, 2006 and 2007 Coleraine. These wines are hard to come by, and will not stick around long.
Chris Green’s menu has three excellent dishes to go with these wines, the Tournedos Rossini, Aged Entrecôte, and for a limited time, a Châteaubriand steak. I already have my name on a bottle of that 1998 Coleraine. I suspect Guillaume does too!