A dry winter in 2015 led to a cool spring but with few frosts. December was cool too, with half the usual rainfall, until summer kicked in with a vengeance in one of the biggest seasonal turnarounds we’ve ever seen. Warm days and warm nights prevailed in January, and February was the second hottest on record. We began harvesting sauvignon blanc on the 16th of March. Chardonnay was being handpicked the following day in lovely conditions. Whites were all picked by the 26th, the same day we started on merlot in the Havelock Hills.
March - typically Hawke’s Bay and despite some unsettled weather - ended up with only two thirds the average annual rainfall, and April only a quarter of the usual average. Cabernets, syrahs and all remaining merlot ripened nicely in warm, dry conditions until vintage was wrapped up by April 20th.
We couldn’t be happier with the fruit quality in 2016. The turnaround produced whites that look fresh and vibrant - showing full, ripe flavours and excellent acid balance. Reds appear plump, fruity, and with good levels of ripe tannins. Again, the reds have that depth of colour we’ve seen develop in the last three years, and the 2016 cabernet and merlot look especially promising.
The success of 2015 is down to the lower than normal crops which provided great concentration and maximized the effect of the dry and warm mid-summer. The good fortune of well-timed weather when we wanted it outweighed any concerns from a cool start to the spring or a few late-season autumn showers. The charm of 2015 is already evident in the wines and will prove the lasting testament of our third successive high-quality vintage.
White grapes had lovely flavour in the vineyard and this has flowed through to the young wines. They are fresh and full of fruit.
Red grapes benefitted from a long, mostly dry and warm growing season. Small crops produced wines with concentration and dark colours. Tannins and flavours are ripe, and lively acids will keep the wines fresh in youth and maturity.
Spring of 2013 was unusually dry and mild leading to budburst a good two weeks early.October was warm and dry with half the normal rainfall and November continued to be very warm with six days over 25 degrees and one at almost 30 degrees – summer temperatures! The early trend continued with Chardonnay flowering in full swing on the 13th compared with the usual first week of December. Flowering went well in all varieties. By late November soils were beginning to dry out although 70mm of rain on the 26th and 29th replaced soil moisture keeping the vines happy.
Spring of 2012 was cool and very dry. November warmed up nicely, with many days around 25 degrees. By late November, there were signs of things to come. Grass on the hillsides and the drier parts of vineyards began to die off early, due to less than half the normal rain falling over the three months of Spring. December was warmer again, with eight days into the 30s, and again, less than half the usual rainfall. The timing of flowering was normal, starting with chardonnay late November and finishing in red varieties mid December. Drier vineyards were receiving some irrigation early in December.
Spring was drier and cooler than usual, delaying bud break and subsequent vine growth by about two weeks. The rest of the spring, and until late March, temperatures were mild to warm, with no rain to speak of. Rain forecast for late March and early April kept us focused on picking and we finished our white grapes on 1 April - the shortest harvesting period for white grapes!
It has been a real roller coaster ride to coin a phrase but we have smiles on our faces. After being spoiled for settled, warm, dry, vintage conditions for most of the last 10 years we finally got some weather in 2011. November was very dry with only 20 mm of rain and December below average at 50mm. The many overcast days and cloudy nights gave us average temperatures but the bonus of no frosts.
The 2010 season began very early. The hottest August on record was followed by a warm and dry September making budburst two weeks early, amidst thoughts of a “global warming” vintage. However, October turned out to be the coldest on record and, with greater than usual rainfall, led to a slowing down of vine growth and reduced bunch numbers on some varieties. By early January many of our vineyards were dry enough to require irrigation. This drying of vineyard soils by midsummer is crucial for red vineyards in particular as it leads to good ripening and concentration.
2009 was the hottest growing season for the last ten years with the second lowest rainfall ever recorded since 1980, giving a superb vintage. Mild spring weather lead to budburst occurring 10 days earlier than usual. The rest of September continued mild and dry, with some days reaching 25 degrees. The warm to hot conditions carried on through October and November, with only one day of rain.
2008 was an early, warm and dry growing season and our fifth consecutive high quality vintage. Two frosts in October caused problems on the Heretaunga Plains, but our Woodthorpe and Havelock Hills vineyards were unscathed. The Bullnose and Isosceles vineyard were touched in places by the frost, but our vineyard crew removed all frosted shoots which ensures that the remaining crop ripens normally and evenly.
Good sized crops ripened to perfection in almost every case, so 2007 is one of those rare vintages of good quantity and high quality. After a wet winter, spring was settled, warm and dry. November was also dry and one of the warmest on record, leading to a rapid flowering and excellent fruit set giving full bunches. December was cooler than average but, again, without much rain, so that more arid blocks required irrigation by late in the month.
2006 was a third very high quality vintage in a row for Te Mata Estate, following the excellent pattern established with 2004 and 2005. Bud burst was about a week early, following a dry end to winter 2005 and warm spring conditions. As we went into December, the soils were retaining good spring moisture and this, with the warm weather, lead to even and healthy shoot growth.
2005 has been a vintage of the highest quality, where the mid-summer weather provided ideal conditions. The wines have now all finished fermentation and are currently undergoing maturation. Of particular note are the late ripening Bordeaux varieties, the flavours of which appear to have responded wonderfully to the January heat. At this early stage, these wines look as good as any vintage we can recall, including ’98 or ‘00.
Winter 2003 finished very wet with about half our annual rainfall occurring in August and September. The timing of bud burst was normal however, and a warm spring ensured a very good and even flowering. Conditions through to December were mild and very dry with no rain in spring and early summer until we had an inch or so around Christmas. December and January were hot with the thermometer above 30 degrees Celcius on many occasions and typically above 25 degrees Celcius.
2003 produced small crops in New Zealand due to a cool, frosty spring. Hawkes Bay had its share of this weather although Te Mata was fortunate enough to escape largely unscathed. With the exception of low crops for Chardonnay and Merlot our growing season was quite normal in every respect. Summer was dry, with only 35mm of rain recorded at Havelock North between 20 December - 25 February.
Vintage 2002 was the longest harvest in Te Mata's history. It began on Friday 15th March and finished, after nearly 7 weeks of picking, on Wednesday 1st May. It was a high quality growing season albeit with an unusual pattern. An early and warm spring progressed to a humid summer, and a very long, warm and dry autumn. The major feature was the "on-vine time" where the magnificent end of the season weather allowed each parcel of each variety to be harvested at optimum flavour ripeness.
The single greatest factor in reviewing the 2001 vintage is the reduced volumes that were harvested due to the cool November flowering. Vineyard yields for 2001 were 50% of normal levels. Apart from November, it was a normal growing season in every other respect. As is often the case with low cropping years the quality is very high. The vineyards produced a very clean crop of fully ripe grapes that show good balance and concentration. The white wines exhibit the typical Hawkes Bay citrus and stonefruit characters, have good palate weight and are between the 1996 and 1997 vintages in style. The red wines appear similar to the 1991 vintage with good colour, rich fruit flavours and firm tannin structures.
The 2000 vintage in Hawkes Bay was characterised by an extremely dry growing season resulting in smaller than average berry sizes giving wines with intense flavours. Heat summation was back to normal levels, after the hotter than average 1998 and 1999 seasons, and quality looks very promising. Our white wines are showing intense ripe fruit flavours and excellent structure, while our red wines are darkly coloured, and showing supple palates backed by long, firm tannins.
It was an early harvest, characterised by reduced volumes and high quality. A special feature was the “on-vine” time we were able to gain, from a very early bud burst and flowering; running through to harvest. Total heat summation was close to that of the 1998 season although we experienced several heavy showers in January and February. Yields were approximately 60% of normal size and the resulting red wines are classically aromatic, ripe with a tight elegant structure similar in style to those of 1990. The white wines are fruit dominant in the palate and forward in style.
In Hawkes Bay, 1998 was a drought season following a wet winter. Vines showed vigorous growth early in the season, and then had a compact flowering in early December. Crops set were large, again necessitating thinning, and the ability to drip irrigate vineyards was essential in order to retain sufficient leaves to maintain photosynthesis. Older vineyards did better than younger blocks; cabernet sauvignon was a star performer, illustrating perhaps that while merlot is a soft option in terms of getting through poorer years, in the better years cabernet sauvignon gives a backbone to reds grown on river gravels that is an essential part of their quality and ability to develop in barrel and bottle. All the fruit was in wonderful condition but vineyards needed very careful management to avoid dehydration ripening and the extractive characters that can result.
This was a year that started well, but flowering was somewhat drawn out and crop management, particularly bunch thinning over the summer, was a very important quality factor. February was warm and humid, as was most of March. We were nervous about our crops, but decided to wait and keep the canopies very open. We then had a prolonged Indian Summer of dry, warm weather, enabling us to harvest grapes without pressure. Our practice of hand harvesting our crops meant that bunches/berries of lesser quality could be omitted, so that for us vintage ’97 was one of small crops of high quality, giving wines with lifted aromatics, pronounced ripe berry flavours, and long palates. The wines are elegant, a word not being used as a euphemism for ‘light’, with great concentration and, in the case of the reds, fine and long tannin structures. We think they’re very good, but there are not large quantities of them.
The growing season culminating in vintage 1996 was a mixture. Initially, the weather was warm and dry, enabling the bud burst through to flowering section to be most satisfactory. We had 90mm (about double average) of rain in January and the same in February, with warm weather prevailing. We had plenty of days at over 30°C, but not as many as normal over 35°C. Harvest started on the 29th March and concluded on the 2nd May. The wines of 1996 season are aromatic, soft and very appealing. They are forward and accessible in style, reminiscent of the wines of 1990 which was a year for which we have always had great regard.
A lovely spring and good weather until mid-December. We got Cyclone Fergus on the 31st December with 95mm of rain. We had a cool, cloudy January, a warm weather February with uncharacteristic humidity and then it all came right, with a wonderful harvest period from Easter until the final picking on the 6th May.
The 1994 vintage for Te Mata Estate was of high quality. Although cool weather in November delayed flowering, a very warm and dry growing season led to intensely concentrated crops. Yields on sauvignon blanc were 15% down; on reds and chardonnay they were about normal. The resulting wines should be powerful, concentrated, with significant keeping qualities and may not be quite as fresh and forward as many consumers expect from New Zealand wine.
1993 was an unusual year, with a harvest at least three weeks later than average. However, from Easter onwards we enjoyed an Indian Summer, and left grapes on the vine because we were able to, resulting in attractively flavoured and weighted wines. Vineyards needed to have had intensive management inputs to harvest quality fruit, but those that did have produced wines of a quality that will surprise many.
The season started well with very good bud break, but then the cold November and cool December reduced the set at flowering, especially with those varieties such as merlot and chardonnay which tend to react adversely to cold winds in the late Spring. In January, we had the same sunshine hours as for 1991, but without those days when the temperature is nearer 40 than 30, and then, late in February, and on into March, the westerlies blew. For the most part, it remained fine and warm, a trend which continued on until about the 9th May. We started harvest on the 24th March, three days later than in 1991, and finished on the 8th May, a week or so later than usual.
The season was early, with a very hot December and the quickest flowering we have ever experienced, followed by prolonged settled weather, one quite heavy rainfall on the 9/10th April and thereafter clear weather until harvest was completed on the 27th April. We consider the year to be our best yet; the wines, in technical terms, have very low pH’s and quite low acids.
Vintage was in mid-season as far as timing went, starting in late March and finishing on the 3rd May. We had only 30mm of rain in April and providentially were missed by the deluges that hit Taranaki and Wanganui. The relative merits of 1989 and 1990 compare to those of 1983 and 1982; 1989 and 1983, being years of drought giving intense, big weighted and slow developing wines; 1990 and 1992 giving more fruitiness and suppleness, slightly lower alcohols and mid to long term ageing capabilities.
1989 was a dry year. There was scarcely any rain during a warm and early spring; we had intermittent showers over the week between Christmas and New Year, and then following a cool and cloudy but quite dry January no further rain until well after harvest. The total rainfall for the 1st October to 30th April growing season was just over 110mm. Vintage was almost a month earlier than average and finished on the 31st March.
Certainly not as bad as made out by media who dismissed it well before harvest. Fruity, forward wines, with good colours and flavours. Chardonnay and reds may surprise with their quality. Similar to ’80-’81.
Very good. Low yields, intense colours and flavours with low pH’s. Great cellaring wines with length and breadth of flavour. A year where rain in February enabled fruit to ripen to full maturity without dehydrating.
A year of big crops and very forward, fruity wines, with rich flavours but lacking backbone and length. Higher pH’s, especially in Chardonnay. Therefore, not so much wines to keep, but very good current drinking.
Very good. Great balance of rain and warmth right through growing season. Wines of good colour, low pH musts and ample phenols. Elegant wines of good keeping qualities.
Cool spring, summer. Late budburst and harvest. Elegant wines, lacking a little weight in chardonnays and reds but elegant sauvignon blancs.
‘El Nino’. A very dry and windy spring and a dry, dry summer and autumn. Wines of intense flavour and colour that are very slow developers.
Very good. Early budburst, a dry spring and warm weather until late March. Heavy rain and strong winds in early April, but very clean crops and wines with good colour, fruit flavours and length.
Wines of bigger weight, higher phenol and extract levels than 1980. Slower developers with generally lower pH’s. A wet winter in 1980 followed by an early budburst and flowering and a warm summer, but a cool, unsettled picking season.
Forward, fruity wines of mid-weight and with elegant characters. Cool spring and late summer with showery autumn.