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Welcome to the
Gisborne Regional Wine Awards 2016

Top Award for a Niche Varietal

Villa Maria made history again at the 2016 Gisborne Regional Wine Awards, with another Supreme Wine of Show Trophy . . . but the winning wine surprised even them.

Supreme Wine of the Show 

The Villa Maria Private Bin Gisborne Viognier 2015 headed off a few more fancied drops to take the GisVin sponsored award before a sell-out crowd of 200 at the black tie dinner at the Quality Hotel Emerald tonight. It is the first time a Viognier wine has been crowned supreme at the Gisborne awards.

For Villa Maria’s group chief winemaker Nick Picone it was a very special win. He is no stranger to victory, and has a record-breaking four times won the Supreme Wine of the Show with the Reserve Barrique Fermented Gisborne Chardonnay, which this year won its class and garnered special mention from chief judge Simon Nunns.

“Viognier is still very much a niche varietal,” says Picone, “but one we have been making for some time. It is a variety that can be difficult to grow and make great wine from, but Gisborne is one of the few regions where it can flourish and fully ripen, and we can see the best of the variety.”

One of the biggest challenges growers and winemakers faced was getting the grape to fully ripen which led to the right flavours shining through.

“2015 was a very good vintage for our Gisborne whites and this is certainly one of the strongest we have made under that label to date. Viognier needs a little time in the bottle and this one is drinking really nicely at the moment,” says Picone. “It’s had a few months to relax in the bottle and build some really nice aromatics.”

The Viognier was machine harvested, to make the most of skin contact allowing apricot and peach flavours to develop, before being pressed and clarified and fermented in stainless steel tanks.

“We build the richness by that skin contact and the tank fermentation helps to intensify the aromatics.”

The grapes came from Tim Egan, Gerard McDiarmid, Alan Knight’s managed Vigneto Vineyard, and the Ledger Vineyard, which is managed by Villa Maria’s Gisborne viticulturist Tony Green.

The viognier also won the Overall Top White Wine Award. Villa Maria received the Highest Awarded Wine Company Trophy, with Tony Green taking the Lead Viticulturist Trophy and its subsidiary brand Left Field Gisborne Albarino 2015 taking out the other whites category.

Picone paid tribute to Villa Maria founder George Fistonich for his vision and passion.

“That we are bottling wines like Viognier is down to George’s commitment to making great wine. We are on a journey to continue to promote niche varietals and tell the stories from the regions that should be heard and celebrated . . . Viognier in Gisborne is one of those.”

Chief judge Simon Nunns said he and his team had been “collectively delighted” by the wines on offer.

The chardonnay class had been a real stand-out for him and one that had seen three gold medals awarded. And he had plenty of praise for the winning Viognier, describing it as “delightful”.

Long time vintner Doug Bell was awarded the Bill Irwin Trophy, which is awarded to celebrate Gisborne’s unique regional wine entrepreneurial nature. Riversun, who are considered leaders in providing world class plant material to many of the nation’s top vineyards, were recognised for their outstanding contribution to the Gisborne industry.

Bridge Estate won the new Gisborne’s Top Cellar Door award.

Overall, four gold medals, 12 silvers and 39 bronzes were awarded across the event, which was the seventh to be held in Gisborne.

Event director Prue Younger is keen to see more local wineries take part in the event.

“It’s a good chance to get a collective promotion for the region. We have a great line-up of judges and they love coming to Gisborne, but we certainly need to take more advantage of this, the one time of the year we celebrate together such a key industry to the region,” she said.

For full details check out the Wine Awards Feature PDF