When I got involved in the idea of doing this tweet up session I was a bit wary about selling out a bit too much. I’ve never really been involved in tastings for what I think to be brands. What kind of company are Villa Maria? Sure I’d tried their wines, and liked them and thought they did a great job in promoting kiwi wine. But what if they were big brand wine guys, like the Echo Falls of this world, intent on sticking stuff on the shelf without a care of the wines or the world they grow it in. Sounds a bit daft, but I genuinely worry about that kind of stuff.
Luckily I needn’t have worried. It was actually a pretty uplifting experience to do research on them. It is possible to be a big company in this world and still keep it in the family and stay true to the way it all started back in 1961. Sir George Fistonich has led them from a few acres of land he borrowed from his dad, to now being one of the bigger producers in 4 of the main wine growing regions of New Zealand. Fair play that man!
History of quality
Well sounds like a bit of a line from a PR release doesn’t it? I couldn’t think of a better way of saying it though. Plenty of historical choices show that that’s been the overall idea, including pioneering the push for better grape quality in the 1980s to stop making bulk mush and make some proper wines in New Zealand.
From 1988 when they first started exporting, it’s been all go. From their base in Auckland in the north island, they’ve also bought land in Gisbourne, Hawke’s Bay (I bloody love Hawke’s Bay wines!), and of course Marlborough, arguably New Zealand’s most famous district. In 2012 they were voted New Zealand’s winery of the year for the 12th time in 15 years. Did you know that? I didn’t! I’d be pretty happy with that track record.
Looking after the place
Going back to what I was saying about how a lot of global wine brands are annihilating the planet in areas like Chile, West coast US, and Australia, I’m always a bit wary about the idea of “brands” and how they work with the vineyards they’ve got. But again, don’t need to worry here. A pioneer of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ, which the kiwis are amazingly proud of), they were also the first major winery in NZ to get the BioGro award for services to organic wines and winemaking.
So I go into tonight’s Tweet Up (7pm GMT, follow us on Twitter) with a big old smile on my face…and lots of piercing and annoying questions for Nick, the head winemaker. Bless him!
BTW, saw this on their website, anyone out there fancy a bit of travelling in the New Year? They’re advertising for 2017 harvest jobs at their sites in Marlborough. Tough going, but what an experience! Check it out at http://www.villamaria.co.nz