Featured Reviews

Villa Maria ‘Library Release’ 2010 and 2009 Bordeaux-Varietal Releases

02 June,2017
Under the instigation of proprietor Sir George Fistonich, the Villa Maria winemakers began selecting wines for a ‘Library Release’ programme. This entailed the identification of parcels of fruit deemed to be of exceptional quality, and had the attributes of being able to develop well with bottle age to show great complexity. The programme was also part of the development of the flagship ‘Ngakirikiri’ Cabernet Sauvignon-based red from the 2013 vintage released last year (click here to see my notes). The Villa Maria viticultural and winemaking team has considerable familiarity with their vineyard sites and the performance of the wines that come from them, and this has given a good indication of the suitability of certain selections of fruit for the making of the ‘Library Release’ wines. The Villa Maria Estates group has a very strong history with their Gimblett Gravels vineyards, thus this region figures in these wines.

I’ve had the privilege of tasting a number of ‘Library Release’ wines, and can say that they figure among some of the best New Zealand wines I have tried. The ‘Library Release’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2010 has been tasted twice, and on last tasting I rated it 20.0/20. It is essentially a super-premium bottling of the ‘Keltern’ (click here to see my review). The ‘Library Release’ Gimblett Gravels Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 I’ve only tasted once, but it rated it 19.5-/20 on that showing.

The wines are vinified separately and undergo their own individual elevage to match their make-up. They are by their nature very limited in production. They are used at the special functions held by Villa Maria, and can be obtained from the cellar door and selected specialist retail outlets or on-premise businesses. Considering that Villa Maria has made these wines as unique bottlings from the outset, and aimed at the very top level of quality, they are relatively affordable in price, not a lot more than the ‘Reserve’ and ‘Single Vineyard’ bottlings. The Villa Maria has done the aging for the consumer is an added bonus. Here, I review the 2010 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the Gimblett Gravels. The 2009s are the first of the ‘Library Release’ wines. www.villamaria.co.nz


Villa Maria ‘Library Release’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Merlot from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay


Very dark, deep, near impenetrable black-red colour with purple hues on the edge, youthful in appearance. The bouquet is elegantly proportioned with deep and well-concentrated, intense aromas of black plums and blackberry fruit along with savoury dark herb, curranty and menthol notes, unfolding complexing nuances of fruit-cake and tobacco. Medium-full bodied, the palate is finely concentrated with an elegant core of ripe blackberry and black plum fruit along with a subtle layering of savoury blackcurrant, cassis and herbs, and a little fruit-cake. The palate is refined with very fine-grained powdery tannin structure in support, and underlying lacy acidity providing energy. The wine flows with good tension and poise, carrying to a long finish of black fruits and herbs. This is an elegantly refined Merlot/Cabernet blend with flavours of blackberries and black plums with complexing savoury herb and currant notes on a palate with poise and linearity. Serve with herb-marinated lamb and beef dishes over the next 7-9+ years. A blend of 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon from the ‘Twyford’ and ‘Omahu’ sites, from vines 12-14 y.o., fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 60% new French oak barrels with three ‘rack and returns’. 19.0+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $69.99

Very deep, dark, near impenetrable black-red colour. This has a fulsome, solid and densely packed bouquet of black and red berry and plum fruit, with layers of secondary dried herb, earth and cedary, pencilly oak. Waves of savoury and sweet aromatic emerge, and this is complex and complete. Sweet and lusciously fruited on palate, balanced with savoury, earth, dried herb, cedar and game flavours. Lovely secondary interest. The tannin extraction is refined, and beginning to soften and show the beginnings of resolution. Poised acidity provides richness and tension. The flavours carry to a very long finish with sweet blackcurrants, plums, earth, tobacco and cedar. 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Sauvignon from ‘Twyford’ and ‘Omahu’, from 12-14 y.o. vines, fermented to 14.0% alc., the Cabernet on skins 6 weeks, the Merlot 3-4 weeks, and the wine aged 18 months in 60% new French oak. 19.5-/20 Nov 2015 RRP $69.99

Villa Maria ‘Library Release’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2009

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. This has a firmly concentrated nose with a deep, intense, aromatic core of ripe blackcurrant and blackberry fruit along with black plums, unfolding layers of cassis, dark herbs and pencilly oak. This is still fresh and youthful in expression. Medium-full bodied, the palate has lusciously rich and sweetly ripe flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants, black plums and nuances of cassis entwined with black minerals, suggestions of iron-earth and some pencilly oak. The fruit sweetness is supported by fine-grained, flowery tannin extraction lending an accessible mouthfeel, but providing plenty of structure and framework. The flavours are mouthfilling and carry with freshness and energy to a lingering, sweet-fruited, sustained finish. This is a beautifully rich and ripe, sweet-fruited Cabernet/Merlot blend with black fruits, mineral and iron-earth complexities on a very fine-grained, structured palate. Match with roast lamb, beef or venison over the next 8-10+ years. A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot from company vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 20 months in 70% new French oak with three ‘rack and returns’. 19.5/20 Jun 2017 RRP $69.99

Villa Maria ‘Library Release’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Cabernet Sauvignon from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Very full, even, black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is firm and well-concentrated with deep aromas of ripe blackcurrant and blackberries entwined with cassis liqueur, mineral and iron-earth complexities. The bouquet unfolds herb and spice detail and suggestions of savoury secondary detail, and pencilly, toasty oak. Medium-full bodied, this has a firmly concentrated and packed palate with rich, ripe flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants, cassis and mint, along with black mineral and iron-earth complexities. Some pencilly and toasty oak detail adds to the interest. The fruit richness is balanced by considerable extraction, the tannins powdery and fine-grained. The acidity is balanced and integrated, and the wine flows with great drive and linearity to a long, lingering finish of blackberries, minerals and oak. This is a beautifully rich, ripe and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon with sweet fruit, mineral complexities and pencilly oak on a well-structured, refined palate. Match with roasted lamb, beef and game meat, and semi-hard cheeses over the next 10+ years. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a company vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged18 months in 67% new French oak barriques. 19.5+/20 Jun 2017 RRP $69.99
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