In 2017, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and the fourth most admired in the world. So we were happy to attend a tasting of Villa Maria Winemaker’s Collection facilitated by Snooth on June 27. Our guides — Snooth’s co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo and Villa Maria winemaker Helen Morrison — talked us through the tasting of six delicious, sustainable wines ranging in price from $13-$45.
Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($15)
This is a lightly carbonated wine; technically it is called frizzante. Don’t expect champagne or sparkling wine, but it is a fun wine, particularly perfect for summer. This refreshing wine features notes of tropical fruit, grapefruit, lime and green apples. Drink it alone as an apertif by the pool or on the deck, or pair it with melons, cheese, seafood dishes or pasta with a cream sauce.
Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($13)
Our favorite white wine is Sauvignon Blanc, and we found Villa Maria’s to be a wonderful expression of New Zealand’s finest at this price point. This is the winery’s most widely recognized label — a classic NZ Sauv Blanc, full of citrus flavors, gooseberry, mango, pineapple and dried herbs, with bright acidity and a crisp, clean finish. Pair it with cilantro shrimp, ling cod cheeks, salmon or Thai food.
Private Bin Bay Rosé 2016 ($14)
Another lovely summer sipper, we enjoyed this rosé at a summer party, where it was a hit with everyone. Mostly Merlot, the wine displays a vibrant color, lovely aromatics of strawberries, watermelon and cherries, with lots of juicy berry flavors and a hint of spice. Pair this rosé with rich cheeses (such as brie or triple cream), grilled salmon, chicken, ham or summer salads.
Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2015 ($45)
The most expensive wine in the lineup, Taylors Pass Chardonnay is an elegant, textured, complex and balanced wine. While there is a bit of toastiness, the New Zealand fruit style shows through more than the oak, which is why we liked it. Aromas and flavors of ripe peach, pears and minerality are followed by spice, a creamy texture and a flintiness. Pair it with chicken alfredo or salmon.
Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014 ($26)
This selection has more weight than a typical Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Aromas of red fruit and a hint of smoke lead into intense flavors of ripe cherries and raspberries, along with herbs, earthiness and a hint of minerality. A bit of smokiness from the barrels makes us think this food-friendly wine will pair well with smoked salmon, charred brussel sprouts or mushroom risotto.
Cellar Selection Merlot-Cabernet 2013 ($20)
More robust than the Pinot Noir, this blend features aromas of cassis, dark fruits and spices, with flavors of blackberries, blueberries, plums and dark cherries. This is a balanced and approachable wine combining savory flavors with juicy fruit. Pair it with pizza, hamburgers or barbecued steaks.
We received these wines as samples for the tasting. You can find them in many locations, or you can buy all but the bubbly from Snooth in a discounted bundle of five wines.