Villa Maria's Syrah shines at NZ Wine of the Year

18 Nov 2019

The Villa Maria team are celebrating their Cellar Selection Syrah Hawke’s Bay 2018 winning the New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Champion trophy presented by O-I New Zealand.

Chair of Judges Warren Gibson described the winning wine as, “Immediately appealing and seductive on the nose. Delicious and savoury on the palate. Exceptionally well crafted.”

Villa Maria also scooped up the Champion Wine of Provenance trophy for their Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah, Hawke’s Bay 2006, 2013 & 2018. This award recognises and celebrates exceptional provenance, wines must display a capacity to develop complexity and reflect a consistency of style over time.

Nick Picone

We spoke to Villa Maria’s Chief Winemaker Nick Picone who has been with the company for twenty years and is based in Hawke’s Bay.

Nick joined Villa Maria as a teenager where his natural ability and passion for winemaking were quickly recognised. After four years in Marlborough, Nick moved to Villa Maria's Auckland winery in 2006. 

He then took charge of the Hawkes Bay and Gisborne production in 2008 and in 2015 became the Group Chief Winemaker.

The fruit for Villa Maria's Syrah is sourced from the hot, dry Hawke’s Bay region from several different sites around the Gimblett Road area.

Nick said the Cellar Selections Syrah has been a remarkably consistent performer for Villa Maria. “We look to capture both the serious and the playful side of Syrah with this label." 

"Perfectly ripened Hawkes Bay Syrah has a captivating fragrance and should be varietally distinctive and hard to confuse with anything else. Deep in colour, wonderfully perfumed, laden with dark berries and spices, yet supple and silk-like in texture.”

The Keltern Hawke's Bay vineyard

The outstanding 2018 vintage in Hawke’s Bay has also had a part to play. “When it all comes together as it did in 2018 it makes for a compelling wine which punches well above its modest price.”

Nick said winemaking in the Hawke’s Bay means he gets to make wines that he loves to drink.

“The versatility of the region is special, but the ‘hero’ varietals of Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot/Cabernet blends are amongst the finest wines of New Zealand.”

And when it comes to enjoying the winning Syrah? “Syrah is an excellent food wine, particularly when paired with dishes featuring spice, duck or venison. It's approachable enough for your casual BBQ and serious enough for a more formal dinner occasion."

If you're lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle and are planning to drink it over the holidays, "Over the warmer summer months look to give the wine 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator before serving to promote the wines fragrance.”

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