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John and Wendy Buck’s efforts with Te Mata Estate are a good example of some of the paths to success in wine enterprises. Theypurchased a site with excellent potential and a winery that had been established in the nineteenth century. This allowed them to extend the story of the history of their business. They carefully and gradually renovated the winery and its surroundings to the highest standard in a functional but elegant manner with a welcoming entrance and sales area. Their major red wines – Coleraine and Awatea -were soon at the top of the price range for Cabernet blends and made in a consistent style, as was their Elston Chardonnay. They quickly developed a strong following and a substantial mail-order trade as well as export markets. When the Bucks built their home they had it designed by Ian Athfield, a former neighbour in Wellington and one of New Zealand’s most distinctive architects, and set it among their Coleraine vines.
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Te Mata Estate could not have achieved its reputation as a company making world-class wine without John Buck’s earlier experience in the international and local wine trade, especially his period working in England. It provided him with a close knowledge of the most complex wine market in the world, where companies have an
Figure 6.7 Te Mata Estate expanded its landholdings from its base in Havelock North out to the edges of Hawke’s Bay winegrowing land in the 1980s and 1990s – establishing the Woodthorpe Terraces vineyard up the Tutaekuri River and Bullnose and Isoceles on the Ngaruroro. Alongside geographical diversification, Te Mata experimented with new varieties. While the Coleraine vineyard in Havelock North is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot, the new vineyards are more diverse and include admired but relatively rare varieties, such as Grenache, Viognier, Petit Verdot, and Gamay Noir intimate association with European producers and negotiants, so it is not surprising that Te Mata’s aspirations and models are French.
International wine events confirm the standing of Te Mata as among the elite New Zealand wine enterprises. British wine writers selected it for their annual vertical wine tasting in 2007 to 2008. Over the seventeen-year sequence, its two Bordeaux blends, Coleraine and Awatea, proved their longevity by being effusively praised and differentiated by the tasters. In 2008 the Robert Parker representative, Neal Martin, on his first visit to New Zealand, scored the 2005 and 2006 Coleraine at 93 and 94 respectively and the 2006 and 2007 Elston Chardonnays at 91. These accolades did not come about by chance.
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