The Villa Maria label features a red ribbon symbolic of their commitment to making excellent wines. Beyond this dedication to high standards, their wines have been recognized as some of the best at numerous international competitions and many of their products are benchmark examples of New Zealand’s top varietals.
At a recent tasting under the tutelage of Villa Maria’s wine maker, Josh Hammond, part of the extensive portfolio of wines was offered along with delightful delicacies presented by the Shore Club at Ottawa’s Westin Hotel. The main focus of the day was on Marlborough’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir bottlings and having been to the Villa Maria cellar door near Blenheim, memories came flooding back of that wonderful viticultural region.
The Marlborough area at the northern tip of New Zealand’s south island is one of the sunniest and driest regions in the country. It sits at the ocean’s doorstep nestled in the Wairau Valley which the Maori people originally called “Kei puta te Wairau” or “The place with the hole in the cloud”. The Wairau River now flows along the northern side of the valley but its ancient origins left a wine-making legacy through the soil it deposited there. A pivotal key to Marlborough’s success is its free-draining stony soils. A sandy loam lies atop very deep gravels and the variances seen throughout the region along with the diurnal temperature changes account for significant differences in varietal character. The Rapaura section has mainly stony lands and the minerality expressed here is distinct as is the tendency to bring out more of the tropical characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc. Clay becomes more prevalent moving southwards and this has been critical to the success of Pinot Noir production. Just around the corner of the mountain range, the Marlborough district encompasses the Awatere valley. A narrow strip of land closer to the sea, the soils here are gravelly silt-loams but the major determinant of wine character is the cool breeze from the perpetually snow-capped peaks from whence the cooling winds originate. Such a combination of temperature and topography yields a more citrus profile to the wines from here.
The art of blending what is produced in the Wairau and Awatere makes Villa Maria outstanding. Depending upon the winemaker’s desired expression, the bottlings can feature a more tropical and melon profile or a lime and grapefruit character. The range of offerings from Villa Maria certainly covers the spectrum and gives everyone an opportunity to find something that fits their own preference.