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Posted: Friday, 18 May 2018 23:10

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Passing By: Michelle Lam of Villa Maria NZ Wines

May 18: Michelle Lam, the Brand Ambassador of Villa Maria Wines is visiting India and conducted a guided Tasting of 5 wines at Shang Palace, Hotel Shangri La last week, thanks to the visit organised by La Cave Fine Wines for wine journalists and bloggers, writes Aruna Chawla who found them great value for money wines and well worth the visit during the hot Delhi afternoon

La Cave Fine Wines is the Retails front of Brindco, India's leading wine importer. La Cave  started out as a wine boutique in DLF Select City Walk, Saket and now has multiple stores in collaboration with Godrej Nature's Baskets in Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore. It houses over 400 labels of international and national wine brands and claims to have the largest selection in India.

One of these wine brands is Villa Maria from New Zealand's most awarded winery. It was set up by a Croatian settler, Sir George Fistonich, a first generation wine-maker who revolutionized the wine industry of New Zealand. In 2009, he was the first New Zealander to be knighted by the Queen for his services to New Zealand's wine industry. A family-owned winery, some key USPs of the brand are a commitment towards sustainability and focus on the future, quality over quantity, family legacy and heritage.

Pioneering Change

  1. Focus on Sustainability: He has always been very conscious of his impact on the environment. Especially in the case of family-owned wineries, the freedom of choosing to focus on the future can be retained. Villa Maria is a certified Sustainable Winery with Environmental Certification. If you don't have the resources in the future, your business will die! It's not just a moral obligation: but an important business objective too, feels Sir George.

  2. Screwcaps  - Villa Maria was the first wine brand internationally to completely switch to using screw caps instead of corks. Easy to access, lesser wastage (bottles can be reused for water at homes!), no risk of cork taint, and as per scientific research done by Villa Maria, does not pose any risk on quality of aged wines either.

  3. Quality over Quantity: Changing the way grapes grown by contract growers were purchased, Sir George started the trend by focusing on quality rather than quantity. Being a family-run business, it was possible for them to take such risks: but it has paid off!

Villa Maria Collections

4 broad collections have been created - each focusing on a specific need and price point.

  1. Private Bin: The wines are approachable, consistent, of an excellent value. Identifying Label Colour - White.

  2. Cellar Selection: These are intensely flavored, elegant, food-friendly wines, which are great for regular consumption. Great VFM wines.

  3. Reserve: These are the exceptional quality wines and have usually been the award-winners. Identifying Label Colour - Black

  4. Single Vineyard: The Stars of the Show, these are individual vineyard expressions from unique sites in New Zealand. Identifying Label Colour - Black with Gold Typography.

Tasting and Observations

The tasting at Shang Palace, Shangri La Hotel was conducted by Michelle Lam, the Brand Ambassador of Villa Maria.

1. Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2017: Straw-yellow color, delicate – ripe. citrus on the nose and a well-balanced palate. The signature kerosene on the nose is evident, but not overpowering. Challenging the flute shaped bottles for Riesling,Villa Maria version uses a Bordeaux shape instead. Great as an aperitif by itself, but can also be paired with light fresh food like salads and cold cuts. It's a little on the sweeter side with 6.7g/ liter sugar and therefore I'm not a big fan personally, but it's a good wine for beginners and connoisseurs alike. Retails at Rs. 2410 per bottle.

2. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2017: For me personally, one of the best Sauv Blancs I've had (at this price point), and my favorite of the lot from the tasting, it's an excellent  representative of what a creative winemaker can do to retain the authenticity of a wine and yet give it an edge. The characteristic crisp, bell peppery recognition is present. It's super tropical without being overpowering: pink guava, passion fruit, melon are well balanced. A great go with seafood and white meats, I'm definitely coming back to this one on brighter, sunny days. Retails at Rs.3630

3. Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay 2017: This is a good introduction to a new world chardonnay with white stone characteristics and a soft, blink and miss oaky characteristic to it. Retails at Rs. 2410

4. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2016: A fantastic, jewel-colored wine, another specialty of New Zealand, this wine got a 91 point from the Decanter Magazine. For someone who isn't a big fan of Pinot, I thoroughly enjoyed the luxury in my mouth - evenly distributed color, balanced vanilla and oak (new oak mixed with seasoned French oak). This Pinot is a great crowd pleaser at Rs. 4200: a splurge for luxury. I might not go back to it, but that's just me. If I do in fact pick it up, I think it'll go well with lamb, fatty fishes, a non-spicy biryani like Lucknowi or Kolkata.

5. Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot & Cabernet 2015: Merlot brings the softness and the Cabernet Sauvignon brings the structure in this full-bodied wine. A wine with personality, this one tastes better with decanting - the tannins soften and the expressions come across better. Madhulika Bhattacharya, aka Madame La Cave calls it 'a pure drinking pleasure', and I agree. Rich red fruit notes with a juicy palate with underlying tobacco and spice to it. A great match for our heavy on the spice Punjabi foods - I could only think of a well-made Rogan Josh to go with it! Retails at Rs. 2360 and is a great value for money.

All these wines are available at La Cave, DLF Select City Walk, Saket and La Cave Cellars in Godrej Nature's Baskets in Mumbai, Pune, and Bangalore.

Aruna is a lawyer, entrepreneur and wine lover - she writes for DelWine as a guest writer, runs her own blog on laws, business, and entrepreneurship at www.arunachawla.com, and runs an art gallery and cafe with the biggest coffee menu in Asia, called Bad Habit Art & Cafe in Good Earth City Centre, Gurgaon.



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