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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Villa Maria - 2015 Sauvignons

Villa Maria lunch with winemaker Nick Picone

Villa Maria make some of the most reliably enjoyable wines you can find - they occupy a sweet spot; distinctive, affordable and approachable, there's nothing about Villa Maria for the general imbiber not to like.

I tried the new 2015 Sauvignon Blanc releases plus a few others with winemaker Nick Picone who had flown over to the UK for a whistle-stop tour.

Over lunch, as well as talking about the wines, Nick explained that Sauvignon makes up 75% of Villa Maria's plantings - which is fine right now while Sauvignon remains the UK's top white wine of choice, but could leave the company over-exposed to swift changes in fashion.

To counter this, Villa Maria also harvest a further 25 varieties, mostly commercially, but some just for fun. Nick's personal non-Sauvignon favourite is Chardonnay, but he feels there is already plenty of it elsewhere so it is unlikely to take off in a big way.

In the medium term, he sees great potential for New Zealand Pinot Noir and thinks Albarino has the right mix of distinctiveness and awareness to be a longer-term development for Sauvignon drinkers.

He does not rate Gruener's prospects, despite some very successful examples from Yealands, seeing it as too close to Sauvignon.

Whites, 2015

Private Bin SB 2015 (£11.25) a blend of grapes from 80 sites in two valleys; textbook expressive Marlborough Sauvignon with good concentration and an easy-drinking fleshy softness.

Reserve Wairau Valley SB 2015 (£15.35) from a single valley, there is passion fruit, mint and pungency; more textured, leesy and complex, with a muscular core.


Reds, 2013

An extraordinary vintage, in Nick's words - with a long-but-cool drought around harvest and long hang times as a result.

Private Bin Merlot / Cab (£13.30) juicy and fresh with trademark cherries and coffee grounds. No rough edges at all, but feels a little overpriced.

Reserve Merlot (£22.60) red and black plum fruit, fresh and concentrated with a supple texture. Very deft, very long, but again the price feels a little toppy.

Very Good.

Lighter Pinot Grigio 2014 - a good, enjoyable lighter wine for sipping in the garden or lunchtime drinking. Has the hallmark Villa Maria quality feel and is not compromised by its lower alcohol status. I can't help feeling this would be better positioned as an "occasion" wine rather than as a somehow lesser version of the range.

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2013 similar in quality to the Reserve Merlot but with rather more oomph, I rather preferred this for its greater assertiveness.

Other related articles
Villa Maria 50 Years Tasting

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