Monday, December 29, 2014

The Wines Of New Zealand at Whole Foods

In the recent Twitter tasting for the New Zealand wines, which were fall features at Whole Foods Markets, there was lively discussion of The Red Blend, from Villa Maria.

@WFMWine hit us with some background info: "Villa Maria The Red Blend.used to be called cab-merlot, new name, new vintage. Nice label and package."   One WFM location had  guests tasting on hand: "The Villa Maria red blend was also popular with many guests at tonight's tasting."  @WFMSantaFe tweeted, "New Zealand - where the reds are sassy and the whites are grassy!"   They then got down to business by noting, "Best paired with a ribeye! Villa Maria Red Blend, 2013 vintage #cutsthefat."

Sir George Fistonich founded Villa Maria Estate in Auckland in 1961, starting with a one-acre vineyard.   An innovator, he instituted the practice of quality-based pricing for grapes in New Zealand, hired viticulturists and made Villa Maria cork-free beginning with the 2002 vintage.  Sir George received New Zealand’s first knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in 2009 for his importance in the country’s wine industry.

Villa Maria has been a member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand since the organization’s birth in 1995.  The company has vineyards in Aukland, Gisborne, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, which is the source for The Red Blend.  The Hawkes Bay region is on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.  It’s a dry, temperate climate that gets hot summers and cool winters.

Villa Maria's The Red Blend is a mix of Bordeaux grape varieties - Merlot-heavy at 75%.  14% of the makeup is Cabernet Sauvignon, while Malbec takes up 7% and 4% goes to Cabernet Franc.  The alcohol is a fair 13% abv and it looks to have a fairly medium intensity of dark red coloring.  It is bottled under Villa Maria’s “Private Bin” label.

The Red Blend’s nose brings the Bordeaux, with all the blackberry, cassis and oak spice you can stand.  Clove, cedar and nutmeg are prominent, with undercurrents of vanilla, cinnamon and a good whiff of Merlot smoke.  The palate echoes those sentiments, for the most part.  It's dark, without getting all primeval on us.  It doesn't brood, it just furrows it's brow a bit.

The tannins are lively enough to mate this wine with a variety of red meats, the fattier the better.  It goes great with soft cheeses, too.

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