Te Awa Winery, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

New Zealand is home to a far wider range of wine styles than most people imagine, and though it made its name, to a great extent, on easily drinkable Sauvignon Blanc, there is far more to the country than just that. I firmly believe that New Zealand is one of the most exciting wine-producing countries in the world right now, and it looks as if the quality and accomplishment of its wines will only continue to improve from their already stellar levels.
Te Awa, the standout Hawkes Bay producer, has done their region and country proud with the excellent 2009s I recently tasted. My notes are below.
Te Awa Sauvignon Blanc 2009
An intriguing nose of lemon, grapefruit pith, and a hint of rubber (in a good way) leads to a palate of surprisingly sweet, delicate fruit--I’d almost say lacy in character. There’s a sense of orange pastry creme in there, lifted by well-balanced acidity that, despite its freshness, doesn’t dominate or define the wine. I really like the edge of savoriness here, which lends this wine a complexity that a lot of other SB’s at this price point lack. Nicely made, and pleasantly expressive for all its subtlety.
Te Awa Chardonnay 2009
Aromas of fresh fennel, just cut up and ready for the salad, start things off here. They’re joined by very concentrated seckle pear and an exotic note that reminds me of Indian-spiced sultanas. On the palate, flavors of autumn fruit--pear, baked apple, persimmon--come to the fore, and mingle with that delicate spicing and a nice, almost bitter hint of the fennel bulb. There’s a slight toastiness, especially on the finish, but it’s never overwhelming: Just a pleasant undertone to the wine. This is exceptionally food-friendly, but just as easy to drink on its own.
Te Awa Syrah 2009
Unmistakable syrah nose, with absolutely gorgeous peppercorn, game meat, and crushed blackberries and black raspberries. These follow through to a palate very much on the savory side, but limned with the sweet fruit of the holiday season--currants, dark berries--a touch of caramel from the oak, and whiffs of herbes de provence and garrigue. I’d give this a year to come together a bit more, but it’s a lovely, masculine wine already.