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Villa Maria sees Kiwi red revolution

Published:  23 July, 2008

Merlot, "the ideal choice for Hawkes Bay"

these are exciting times in New Zealand as the quality of the country's red wines "snowballs" according to Villa Maria's founder and managing director. George Fistonich was speaking at the company's seminar last week, titled "The Red Revolution", at which it announced its commitment to become a top New Zealand producer of Pinot Noir. Fistonich told Harpers: "We expect to lose money for a few years but we have got to get the quality and price right. "There's a real buzz in New Zealand. Quality has snowballed in the 1999 and 2000 vintages," he said. Michelle Richardson, Villa Maria's group senior winemaker, and Gordon Russell, Esk Valley Estate's winemaker, conducted a tutored tasting at Vinopolis in London. Richardson said that Pinot Noir is "very, very temperamental and a demanding grape". She described the Marlborough district as "one of the best areas for Pinot Noir" in New Zealand. Russell told the audience that he regarded the Esk Valley region of Hawkes Bay as capable of producing world-class Bordeaux-style wines. "In the next five years I believe it will be one of the best viticulture regions in the Southern Hemisphere." Russell particularly singled out the stony gravels of Omahu to the north-west of Hastings as some of the best soils for red wine. He said that Merlot was "the ideal choice for Hawkes Bay".