Ngakirikiri The Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ~ Tasting Villa Maria’s Maiden Icon Red Release…

New Zealand’s Villa Maria has been making wines for over 50 years from many of the North and South Island’s best appellations. But to mark Villa Maria’s 54th Anniversary, the company decided to release a new flagship red to commemorate the occasion. Called Ngakirikiri, the Maori word for Gravels, the 2013 vintage was chosen to showcase Villa Maria’s first ultra premium red.

2013 will go down in Hawkes Bay as one of the best red wine vintages in this regions history, presenting an unmissable opportunity to launch this new wine. Villa Maria owner, Sir George Fistonitch, described it as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to create and launch a flagship wine marking all the winemaking achievements of Villa Maria’s 54 year history.

The Ngakirikiri Vineyard is sited on what was an ancient riverbed in the a Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawkes Bay. Over 25 years ago, the site was blessed by Maori elders before vines were planted. Growing conditions can be extreme with the alluvial gravels providing a very stony, free draining environment for the vines. As a result, vines tend to be less vigorous in canopy growth with their roots delving deeper into the soils resulting in intense, deeply flavoured grapes.

Villa Maria Ngakirikiri The Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Gimblett Gravels, 14 Abv.

Although this wine is almost 5 years old, it still possesses a youthful deep plummy purple colour. A flagship red wine deserves to have an exulted, opulent, complex bouquet and this Gimblett Gravels blend does not disappoint. With 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and only 3% Merlot, the nose is lifted and elegantly perfumed with aromatic layers of intense cassis, black cherry, blueberries, damson plums and wonderful violet, dried rose petals and lavender perfume. The palate is dense and textured with opulent layers that are classically proportioned and seductive showing black cassis fruit concentration that would not look out of place on a young super premium Pauillac or St Julien Bordeaux. The supportive cedary oak is beautifully integrated and the tannins while youthful, are very fine grained lending just the right amount of Old World styled restraint. True to all great reds from New Zealand, this wine has super vibrant freshness that enhance and emphasise the majestic gravelly minerality and saline picante black liquorice finish. A truly impressive, sensually stimulating wine that deserves further ageing in the cellar for at least another 20+ years. But drinking this truly fine red now will equally bring great pleasure and enjoyment to consumers, collectors and connoisseurs alike.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

So what is my overall verdict? Well, my original interest in this wine started when I commented on social media that it seemed slightly incongruous that this new(ish) release could be scored by professionals with such a wide disparity … 92+/100 from the Wine Advocate, 94/100 from James Suckling and 98/100 from Bob Campbell MW. I did subsequently find out that the scores were compiled over a three year spread. Tasting the wine now, almost 5 years after production, it becomes plainly clear that this wine is both the real deal, superb premium quality and is undoubtedly improving in bottle with time.

While this wine won’t be widely available, it does seem that the £99 (R1850) per bottle price tag is more than justified. This is a supremely well made wine that deserves all the positive media attention it has received. I look forward to tasting a bottle of this wine in maybe 10 or 15 years time, when it should be realising it’s full potential.

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