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Previewing 2013 Villa Maria Chardonnay

By January 23, 2014No Comments
Passing the Villa Maria winery on the way to Auckland airport with some time in hand prompted an impromptu visit. On a Thursday afternoon, the cellar door and venue was humming with a throng of people finishing their lunches and gatherings, and most of them buying some wine to take home. It’s obviously a great place to be. www.villamaria.co.nz


Nick Picone – Villa Maria Senior Winemaker

Two 2012 Pre-Taster Chardonnays
Senior winemaker Nick Picone had just completed blending trials on the 2013 Villa Maria Chardonnays and said that he could put a selection on for tasting. While waiting for this, cellar door manager and winemaker Mark Polglase thought that a couple of 2012 pre-tasters would tune up the palate. He put on the Villa Maria ‘SV – Ihumatao’ Auckland Chardonnay 2012, a wonderfully stylish and concentrated wine with rich stonefruit flavours seamlessly interwoven with the complex flinty sulphides that take the wine to another dimension. A great example for sure. This was followed by the Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2012, sweeter in fruit with peach, melon and nutty flavours showing a degree of lusciousness. This was less in the complexing reductive characters, but another excellent example nevertheless.

A Selection of Blended Tank Samples of 2013 Chardonnays
First up, no doubt to get us in the mood was the ‘Cellar Selection’ Hawke’s Bay, at 13.5% alc and aged in 20% new oak. A fruit focussed wine with fresh citrus aromas and flavours. An elegantly sized wine, revealing ripe stonefruit flvours, and the oaking very much integral and unobtrusive. A crisp acid freshness and line featured in its character.

A step up to the ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay, a blend of Mendoza and clones 15 and 95 fruit from the ‘Lyons’, ‘Te Awa’ and ‘Waikahu‘ sites, seeing some wild yeast fermentation and 30% new oak. Tight and decidedly more complex detailing, with a core line of citrus fruits. There’s fruit richness and sweetness providing a degree of accessible roundness on palate, with mealy, nutty nuances.

On to the ‘SV – Keltern’ Hawke’s Bay, made from clones 95 and 15, for the first time fully indigenous yeast fermented and aged in 40% new oak. Lovely firmness, density and concentration, a step up again, very evidently more layered and detailed. Citrus, white and yellow stonefruits, mealy interest and oak. This has real richness and a classic seamless line, and very fine reductive flinty complexities all the way through.

Following was the ‘SV – Ihumatao’ Auckland, clones 15, 95 and Mendoza, 70% wild fermented to a relatively low 13.0% alc., and likewise a low 28% new oak. Rich layers of fruit characters, sweet and lifted and more aromatic. A sleek and stylish wine, with excellent acid tension. This will combine interest with finesse.

The last in the line-up was the ‘Reserve Barrique Fermented’ Gisborne, from Mendoza and clone 95, 30% wild fermented to 14.0% alc and aged in 40% new oak. Textbook broader and fuller style, soft in texture, but this vintage with a surprisingly deep and concentrated core. Rip stonefruits, underlined by real extract providing a textural line.

Overall Perspectives
Nick said that the Villa Maria team were “very happy” with the 2013 vintage for Chardonnay, and it was very apparent from his keenness to show the samples. It has been interesting to chart the progression of Villa Maria’s Chardonnays, especially at the top level of ‘Single Vineyard’ and ‘Reserve’, with respect to the expression of flinty sulphide reduction complexities. Nick says it’s an expression of the site and vintage.

I’m certain that there’s a lot of the flinty character from pressing straight to barrel and full solids ferment, as well as batonnage, from what I can garner from winemaker talk. Whatever the cause, the 2013s seem to be less expressive of this complexity, at least at this early stage of their lives. What will also be interesting will be their reception on the show circuit, the wines with string reductive complexities seeming to perform successfully. We await with anticipation…

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