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Respected United Kingdom publication Drinks International annually publishes its list of the most respected wine brands in the world.
Each year, it surveys a large group across the gamut of the wine industry, each participant voting for its top five brands. This year, it was assisted by market research company Wine Intelligence.
Having made the top 10 for the past four years, Villa Maria leapt into a podium spot this year, being ranked No 3 in the world.
I recently spoke to Villa Maria's Group chief winemaker Nick Picone, who took time out of his busy harvest schedule for a chat.
Picone and the Villa Maria team are understandably ecstatic about being named as one of the world's top-three brands.
When asked about what was behind the success, Picone credited the leadership of Sir George Fistonich, who has led the company's vision for quality, enabling it to attract a group of passionate people who are challenged by the dynamism in the company and a desire to produce consistently excellent wines.
Picone also mentioned the collaborative, yet competitive nature of the New Zealand industry, which has helped the industry, over a period of barely 40 years, to compete with the big players internationally. This is typified, he says, by Felton Road Wines, Cloudy Bay and Oyster Bay also being named in the top 30 and shining a light on our entire industry.
Picone sees this recognition as a means to consolidate Villa Maria's position in the 60-plus countries to which it exports, but also as a vehicle to increase the value of its wines (along with New Zealand as a whole), maintaining the high price position and growing up the value chain.
While sauvignon blanc remains the ``hero'' grape variety, there is additional scope to extend its offering, making the industry stronger and more resilient as a whole.
Matchstick, a little wildness, with delicious stonefruit characters underneath. Real drive and zest to this, knife- edge ripeness, like biting into just barely ripe fruit, yet it works a treat. Texture and richness, oak nuances in support with bold acidity doffing a hat to cooler origins.
Appealingly bracing and would neatly cut through a pasta dish.
Begins with fresh grapes and fruit sherbet notes, moving to nuts, peach and spices with time. Fat, rich and luscious palate, touches of lanolin, peach, banana skin, spicy/savoury notes with a vanilla pod-like note on the close.
There’s a cuddly softness to this kept in check by a pithy, chewiness, building to an explosion of flavour: the warmth of the summer sun in a glass.
Rating: Very good to excellent
Grilled nuts and a lactic note lead, nectarine and citrus growing over time. A lactic/leesy feel to the supple palate with spice and nuts: a juicy crunchiness to the fruit that flows to the close. A firmly coiled, youthful brashness to this that shows bright and zesty drinkability.
Improves with time.