Awatea takes its name from the legendary ship SS Awatea (a Maori word meaning “Eye of the Dawn”) that sailed the Auckland – Sydney – Wellington route in the late 1930’s. The Awatea was requisitioned as a troop transport in WWII and was sunk off Algeria in 1942.
The vineyard is named Awatea as it is owned by the Austen-Smith family who had connections to both the Union Shipping Company and the NZ Shipping Company. An earlier branch of the family had purchased various fittings that were stripped from the Awatea when it was requisitioned as a troop carrier in WW2. The following generation named the vineyard Awatea to maintain the family connection to the ship; Te Mata Estate and the Austen-Smith family asked the Union Shipping Company permission to use the ships name and image on the wine in recognition of this link between the wine, the vineyard, the family and their connection to the SS Awatea.
First made in 1982, and originally a single vineyard wine, Awatea is now produced from over thirty separate cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot wines made from Te Mata Estate's nine Hawke's Bay vineyards. When Awatea is well cellared it develops and intensifies in bottle for 8-12 years from harvest.