A Virtual Wine Tasting With Villa Maria and Snooth.com
by John Dunham & Alison Blackman
Don’t worry, don’t worry, if you can’t find love in a hurry. Don’t fret, don’t fret, cause love’s not giving up yet. It’s hard worn, hard worn, and love doesn’t care what you’ve done. There’s someone here for everyone – Someone here for everyone – Someone here for everyone.
So concludes the 2016 song by English singer-songwriter Jamie Lawson. And while the phrase something here for everyone can describe love, it can also describe the love and the breadth of wines produced by New Zealand’s most awarded winemaker, Villa Maria.
Founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria Estate has grown into one of New Zealand’s largest wine producers, with vineyards and production facilities in Auckland and Marlborough. The company is still family owned and was named by Drinks International as both the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and the fourth most admired in the world.
The company certainly produces something for everyone, with wine sold at four different price points known as Reserve, Single Vineyard, Cellar Selection and Private Bin. Outside of the Sauvingon Blanc and Bordeaux Blends that New Zealand is most known for, the company produces a wide range of varietals including Pinot Gris, Albarino, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Verdelho, Arneis, Granache, Pinot Noir, Syrah – the list goes on and on. The company produces still wines, dessert wines, and sparkling wines. It produces organic wines for those so inclined. This is a depth and range that few wineries around the world can match.
We had the fortune to try six of these myriad wines at a virtual wine tasting recently hosted by Snooth.com.
The site’s co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo was joined by Villa Maria winemaker Helen Morrison, live from New Zealand. As we have noted before on these pages, virtual wine tastings are held every few months by Snooth.com, an on-line community for wine lovers.
By hosting these tastings, Snooth.com allows community members to interact with wineries, stores, fellow wine lovers, and wine professionals in real time from all over the world. For us, the Snooth.com virtual wine tastings provide an opportunity to drink some wines we might not have heard about, and learn from experts that we would not normally have contact with.
We have written before about how to prepare for a Snooth.com virtual wine tasting, but in summary, it is similar to hosting one yourself – but with the added plus that you don’t need to learn about and research the wines in advance.
It’s best to taste with about 4 people (remember you will be sampling 4 to 5 wines). You need to determine what wines are going to be tasted and purchase enough for the number of people attending. We also recommend having a “starter wine” for those who come early.
Make sure that there is food available – remember you will likely be drinking 4 or 5 glasses of wine over the course of an hour (coffee served afterwards is a must if people are driving home).
Gather people around the computer or TV screen so they can watch the hosts as these events are almost always conducted on some sort of streaming video.
Finally, have fun. Virtual wine tastings are about education, but they are also an opportunity to socialize and enjoy great wine with great people.
Villa Maria Wine Tasting Notes:
For the Villa Maria tasting, Snooth.com sent us the following six Villa Maria wines for the review:
Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Private Bin Bay Rosé 2016
Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2015
Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014
Cellar Selection Merlot-Cabernet 2013
No Corks…Screw Caps!
Since this was a Thursday night, we tasted all six bottles, but we didn’t finish all of them.
However, we were sent a Savino wine carafe that we wanted to try (more on that beneath the Villa Maria tasting notes).
Like many New Zealand producers, Villa Maria chooses to use bottle caps rather than corks for their wines and is 100 % cork free.
Helen Morrison of Villa Maria explained that cork is very expensive in New Zealand and also since the wines must be shipped long distances, the screw caps work better than a cork.
Opening a bottle cap on a sparkling wine is different, but that is exactly what we did with the Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc (2015: $14.00). The wine is sourced from grapes throughout New Zealand and is artificially carbonated when it is bottled. Light gold in color, this wine was fruity on the nose with melon and citrus. The mousse featured very large bubbles, reflecting the artificial carbonation. Some of the tasters loved it, but we weren’t so moved by the bitter finish on the palate. But it’s a unique expression of the grand dame of New Zealand wines, Sauvignon Blanc.
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (2016: $14.00) was a very inexpensive and excellent expression of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc varietal. Light gold in color the wine has a nose featuring floral pear blossoms and peach undertones. On the palate the wine was very fruit forward, with stone fruits like peach and nectarine, and some ripe cantaloupe melon. This was a fantastic pairing wine with the grilled chicken that we were enjoying during the tasting, but will pair nicely across a range of lighter foods from oysters to salads.
The third wine we tasted was another interesting selection: Villa Maria Private Bin Bay Hawkes Bay Rosé (2016: $14.00) which is made from a blend of grapes (primarily Merlot) sourced from New Zealand’s eastern coast. It has a pinkish orange color with a nose featuring strawberry, currants, and florals. On the palate the wine was floral in nature at first, but has a refreshing fruity smoothness across the palate with some green pepper notes on the finish. This is a dry rose that will serve well with light pastas and summer dishes.
Villa Maria Taylors Pass Chardonnay (2015: $26.00) is produced from the Taylor’s pass region of New Zealand, where cool coastal breezes and winds coming up the valley create a classic light chardonnay with a light yellow color and a smoky, citrusy nose. It is somewhat mineral on the palate which is not always standard in new world Chardonnay, with a lot of citrus notes. More toward the narrow Chablis end of a Chardonnay than the rich California end, this is a great wine to serve with seafood, lobster, crab or fish dishes.
Pinot Noir is the main grape of the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where it produces a very vibrant expression of the varietal. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir (2014: $35) we tried was almost purple in color, with a nose featuring cherry, licorice and honey notes. A very fruit forward new world style Pinot Noir, the wine has a lot of cherry on the finis with good berry notes throughout. The wine has a good structure and a fresh acidity, suggesting that it will cellar for 5 or 6 years before reaching its full expression. This was our favorite wine from the tasting.
Our last wine for the tasting was Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot-Cabernet (2013: $20.00) a Bordeaux blend. Originating from the Hawkes Bay region, an area noted for the Bordeaux varietals Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was dark red, almost purple in color with a nose featuring plum, cherry and black fruits with a hit of chocolate. On the palate, an approachable wine with lighter tannins, and berry and plum flavors as well as a bit of smoked meat. This is a great pairing wine for steaks, chops and even red sauce pastas. It should cellar well – though not endlessly.
Virtual wine tastings, like those offered by Snooth.com provide an excellent opportunity to try wines from small producers that one would not normally see on a wine list or in a local wine shop. They are easy to participate in and offer a great way to learn while having fun with friends.
For more on Snooth virtual wine tastings visit Snooth.com.
For more on Villa Maria visit: http://www.villamaria.co.nz/
We are “AdvicesisterA” in Snooth chat rooms. Check out this virtual wine tasting on snooth.com: http://www.snooth.com/virtual-tasting/video/villa-maria-virtual-tasting/#ixzz4mLY3ZMBE
Bonus Review: The Savino Wine Saver Carafe Saved Our Wine!
The Advice Sisters Beauty and Style receive many different types of products to review focusing on things that help make life easier, more successful and more fun.
The float isn’t there just for show. What it does when you have liquid in the carafe is float to the top of the liquid to seal the wine creating a physical barrier between it and oxygen in the air. This prevents oxidation.
When we first poured the wine into the Savino carafe, the float bobbed like a tiny sailboat lost in a storm and we didn’t think it would do a good job.
But we could see that once things settled, the flat did literally “put a lid” on the wine.
That, plus the tight fitting top, kept our wine tasting great for several days until we finished it.
The Savino Wine carafe would make a great gift as well as a must-have for any wine lover.
It’s also great for singles or people who don’t want to drink an entire bottle of wine at one time.
MSRP: Glass- $59.95, Plastic- $29.95 Available online at www.savinowine.com