RAISE A GLASS

Western Mail - - FOOD & DRINK - WITH JANE CLARE

I WAS pretty giddy the day I vis­ited the Villa Maria win­ery just out­side Auck­land in New Zealand.

There I was, thou­sands of miles away from home meet­ing the peo­ple be­hind wines I’d seen many times in the UK. Oh, and I was tast­ing them too. I’m noth­ing if not pre­dictable.

The win­ery is an in­trigu­ing place; it is set in­side a 20,000-year-old vol­canic crater which is a won­der­ful am­phithe­atre, per­fect not just for grow­ing grapes but also the oc­ca­sional con­cert. Tom Jones has wig­gled his hips here.

I was there to wig­gle some glasses and Se­nior Auck­land Wine­maker David Roper led me through a tast­ing of 18 wines (some­one’s got to do it).

Here are four of them.

Villa Maria Pri­vate Bin Lightly Sparkling Sauvi­gnon Blanc 2016, right (RRP £11.75, Mor­risons, Fare­ham Wine Cel­lar, New Zealand House of Wine, Ama­zon, 12.5% abv): This is a pretty lit­tle wine, ap­peal­ing to peo­ple who like prosecco. It isn’t hyper on the bub­bles and the clue is in the words “lightly sparkling”. Grape­fruit and lime aro­mas zing from the glass and this wine would be re­ally nice for sum­mer. Villa Maria Re­serve Clif­ford Bay Sauvi­gnon Blanc 2017 (RRP £15.95, Sains­bury, 12.5% abv) This vin­tage has picked up sev­eral gold awards in New Zealand and it is easy to see why. It is a blend of grapes from vine­yard blocks known for de­liv­er­ing pun­gent aro­mat­ics typ­i­cal of the Awa­tere Val­ley In Marl­bor­ough and in­flu­enced by the Pa­cific Ocean. It was so lovely, with limes, herbs, grass and black­cur­rant leaf all mak­ing an ap­pear­ance.

■ Villa Maria Pri­vate Bin Pinot Noir 2016 (RRP £13.80 Tesco, The Coop, Asda, Mor­risons,13% abv): A fruity, eas­ily ap­proach­able pinot noir. It has a good bal­ance of fruit and acid­ity and a nose of red fruits and strawberry with cher­ries and rasp­ber­ries on the palate. It is quite pep­pery too.

■ Villa Maria Cel­lar Se­lec­tion Pinot Noir 2016 (RRP £16.20 Ma­jes­tic Wine, Waitrose Cel­lar, 13% abv): It has deeper fruit notes than the Pri­vate Bin and has seen oak ag­ing in a mix of new and old oak for 10 months, sit­ting on its lees. It has silky tan­nins, red fruits have over­tures of smoky oak and a cup­board full of dried herbs.

ALSO IN MY GLASS…

TWO reds for your delec­ta­tion. ■ Montes Al­pha Syrah, right (£9.99, The Co-op, abv 14.5%): This in­tense Chilean wine is a de­li­cious, inky-black colour with black­cur­rant flavours that taste like “proper” Ribena (be­fore they took all the sugar out), com­bined with notes of liquorice and a slight pep­pery spice on the fin­ish. There’s a hint of cof­fee and even tof­fee in there as well. Per­fect with a steak or any red meat and good value.

■ The So­ci­ety’s Si­cil­ian Re­serve Red 2013 (£8.25, The Wine So­ci­ety, 13.5% abv):

I sipped this with a wine geek pal and we both went ooooh, nice! It is made from the nero d’Avola grape and is partly aged in French oak with an­other 12 months in bot­tle. It is rich and fruity with spice, plums, laven­der, vanilla and a cherry on top.

■ Jane is a mem­ber of the Cir­cle of Wine Writ­ers. Find her on so­cial me­dia and on­line as One Foot in the Grapes.

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