All images provided by Hatch Mansfield.
Villa Maria Winery
The wine-loving world fell in love with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the 1980s, when the new Antipodean kid on the block unveiled its full-on, aromatic, fruity and ultimately consistent style of the traditional French grape variety. Marlborough, the pioneering area for this new style of Sauvignon Blanc, remains one of the world's top wine producing regions, but other grape varieties planted there and throughout the country have seen global success too. These include Cabernet Sauvignon blends in the North Island, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and many others nationwide. At this year's New York International Wine Competition, there were several winners from the island nation, including Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2013, which won a Gold Medal.
Remember the 1992 song "Four Seasons in One Day, by rock group Crowded House? One explanation of the lyrics (feel free to interpret in a different way, as many have done!) is that it relates to the weather in New Zealand going from one extreme to the next during a single day. So, with a remote location, 2,000 km from its nearest neighbour Australia, surrounded by the cold southwestern Pacific waters and blessed with a hugely diverse topography, climate and soils, it is no surprise that so many wine styles are produced with such success.
Having spent a wonderful honeymoon in this glorious country – we drove around 1000 miles and stopped at traffic lights three times, twice on the same single-lane bridge! – I still remember the breath-taking open spaces so vividly. Great memories, including fabulous food and wine … so what better way to toast this year's summer than tasting some New Zealand white wines with a little nostalgic nod?!
Richard Painter, Te Awa Winemaker.
When four bottles arrived at my door to review from UK premium wine specialists Hatch Mansfield and PR Agency R&R Teamwork, I was understandably eager to start! Three of these wines are part of Villa Maria's impressive portfolio, whose Private Bin Pinot Grigio 2015 I wrote about recently on these pages. The other is a Left Field treat from the superb Te Awa collection.
Nick Picone, Villa Maria winemaker.
New Zealand's most awarded winery was founded in Auckland in 1961 by the renowned wine industry pioneer Sir George Fistonich and has remained family owned to this day. The company sources grapes from premium growing regions in the North and South Island, namely Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. With a commitment to sustainability and environmental management, the company has received several accreditations for sustainable, ecological practice and has organically certified vineyards in Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough. The company has two modern wineries, both of which have won design awards, for example their state-of-the-art Auckland winery and vineyard park built in the collapsed crater of an extinct volcano.
Villa Maria Private Bin Lighter Sauvignon Blanc 2015
With many consumers looking for drinks that fit in with healthier lifestyles, lower alcohol wines of high quality have a definite attraction. With this in mind, Villa Maria has created a range of wines that are full of flavour, but lower in calories. The grapes for this Lighter Sauvignon Blanc are picked slightly earlier, resulting in a wine with a naturally lower alcohol level of 9% ABV. It's refreshing with flavours of fresh herbs, grapefruit and white peach – a great, light alternative to enjoy this summer!
Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2015
This is light, crisp and aromatic with juicy citrus flavours reminiscent of grapefruit and mandarin plus a hint of ginger spice on the palate. With well-balanced acidity and a smooth, fresh finish, this is a delightful easy-drinking and slightly off-dry summer wine that works perfectly as an aperitif or as a pairing with delicately spiced Thai food.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Gris 2015
Fruity notes of lemon, stone fruit, pineapple and pear are complemented by the herbaceous/herbal and mineral edge, touches of spice and refreshing acidity. This Sauvignon Gris is typical of the Marlborough region and perfect for summer salads and picnics in the park!
Te Awa winery produces single-estate-grown wines and is located in the heart of the thriving Gimblett Gravels district of Hawke's Bay in the east of the North Island. The region covers 800 hectares and is characterised by the gravelly soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1860s. The name 'Te Awa' comes from the Maori 'Te Awa o Te Atua', which means River of God, referring to the subterranean streams over which the winery is sited.
Te Awa Left Field Vineyard.
Left Field forms part of the Te Awa Collection. The name originated in 2006 when the winemaker at the time decided to make a range of wines from the left-hand side of the Te Awa vineyard. Current winemaker, Richard Painter, explains more: "Whereas the right-hand side of the Te Awa estate is characterised by stony 'Gimblett Gravels' soil, the left side has a silty and sandy gravel soil known as the 'Bridge Pa Triangle'. Since wines labelled "Gimblett Gravels" can only come from vineyards with that particular soil type, a separate range of wines was established to utilise the parts of the vineyard which are ineligible for the Gimblett Gravels moniker."
In 2014, the winery decided to reinvigorate the Left Field brand and embrace the secondary meanings of the term, hence the whimsical illustrations and stories that adorn the bottles. This also applies to the wines where they are exploring slightly 'left field' varieties and different regions in New Zealand, e.g. Albariño (hardly any is currently planted in New Zealand - the grape was first grown there in 2009), a straight Malbec (also rare in NZ) and a rosé made from Pinotage and Arneis!
Left Field Albariño 2015
Albariño is a white grape variety from Galicia in the North West of Spain and is also grown in Portugal, where it is known as Alvarinho. The grapes for this wine are sourced from the Gisborne region, all hand-picked and trucked down to the Te Awa estate, a journey of around three hours. It's fresh, floral and zesty with notes of citrus, peach and melon and would make a delicious alternative to Sauvignon Blanc to pair with fish and oriental flavours.
Cheers to summer!
This article is also available on The Alcohol Professor website.