RAISE A GLASS
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.