Everyone loves the wines of Villa Maria. Its so-called Private Bin range is hugely reliable and, heaven knows, I’ve drunk enough of it in my time. But there’s much more to VM than its entry level vino. Head further up the scale and you will find some corkers in the Cellar Selection, Platinum Selection, Reserve and Single Vineyard ranges, exquisitely made in tiny quantities. Little wonder that Villa Maria is New Zealand’s most awarded winery and that founder/owner George Fistonich was knighted for his efforts.
Thanks to Mark Cronshaw of Mr Wheeler, we’ve some top examples here which — so Mark assures me — are priced as keenly as you will find anywhere else.
The 2018 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Albariño (1) is light, clean, fresh and rather unassuming. That’s not to say it hasn’t got character — it has, with its hints of cream, peach, citrus and a whisper of honey — it’s just that it doesn’t shout about itself. Made from 100 per cent Albariño, that deeply trendy grape famed for its fresh and zesty Rías Baixas wines from Spain, it comes from Gisborne in the north east of New Zealand’s North Island. £11.50 down from £15.
The 2017 Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc (2), by contrast, has plenty to say, with its exuberant aromas of cut grass, nettles and the inevitable cat’s pee. If classic, beautifully made Marlborough Savvy Blanc is your thing, you’ll love this. It has plenty of tropical fruit on the palate for sure, but the truth is that it’s actually rather restrained compared with some of the blousy, over the top Kiwi offerings one sees these days and is quite the class act.
£12 down from £16.50.
The 2016 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Chardonnay (3) is right up my alley and, I trust, will be up yours too, being truly stylish. Although there’s plenty of succulent, creamy fruit on the palate – think tangy citrus and ripe peaches – the wine has a firm mineral core, with whispers of herbs and spice and its natural liveliness is kept cleverly in check. Time in bottle has added to its charm and, while ready, it can only get better. £16 down from £20.
Grenache is one of the world’s most widely planted varieties, used mainly for blending (think Rioja and Châteauneuf-du-Pape) but has started popping up all over the place as a single varietal. The 2016 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Grenache (4) is the first I’ve had from New Zealand, though, and I loved it. Produced in the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay — the sweetest of sweet spots for Rhône varietals — it’s soft, succulent, aromatic and approachable with plenty of spice and herbs among the red and dark berry fruit. £14 down from £16.50.
And talking of the Gimblett Gravels, it’s a sweet spot for Bordeaux-style reds too and the 2016 Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet/Merlot (5) is a mouth-wateringly fine example that’s been showered with trophies and gold medals. Cab Sauv makes up almost 90 per cent of the blend and it’s richly flavoured with plenty of dense plum, damson and blackcurrant notes, hints of spice and coffee backed by the juiciest of finishes. Drink now or keep for another decade. £19 down from £26.
Finally, the 2014 Villa Maria Seddon Vineyard Pinot Noir (6), the epitome of fine New Zealand Pinot. Made from hand-picked fruit grown in a cool, sheltered site in the Awatere Valley, it’s beautifully put together, with silky smooth tannins, sweet black cherry fruit and a long, satisfying, slightly spicy finish. I love wines like this, wines that just, well, make you smile and ask just one thing of you: that you drink another glass. £22.50 down from £30.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.