Ngakirikiri speaks resolutely of place. This expressive M?ori term refers to the unique soils of the Gimblett Gravels vineyard sites in Hawke’s Bay, but also captures the distinctly New Zealand character of an elite wine, built on strength of character, belief and endurance.
Villa Maria first produced this outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend in 2013, realising that such an exceptional vintage deserved to stand proudly as the company’s flagship release. An age-worthy wine that will endure and show the great potential of Gimblett Gravels.
The high benchmark for Ngakirikiri has since been maintained. It is only produced in exceptional vintages, with painstaking attention to detail making it arguably the most focused wine Villa Maria has produced.
Such studied attention to detail captures the distinctive qualities of the stony Hawke’s Bay vineyard site that was once an ancient riverbed. Its unusual gravel soils were deposited on flat land in the aftermath of an enormous flood in 1867, when the Ngaruroro River burst its banks and changed its course. Farmers thought this harsh land was worthless, but the gamble to plant red Bordeaux grape varieties in 1981 proved to be a revelation. The free draining alluvial gravels prompted vine roots to delve deeper, producing grapes with intense, earthy flavours.
Villa Maria realised the potential of this fantastic terroir and purchased its first land in the region almost three decades ago. Vines were planted to form an essential part of Gimblett Gravels, officially declared a separate 800-hectare wine growing region in 2001.
The first release of Villa Maria Ngakirikiri from the 2013 vintage (a blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot) is a deliberate statement of restrained power. Stern in demeanour and sturdy in stature, its complex fruit tapestry is framed by a herbal lining and by fine-grained tannins that elegantly draw to a graceful conclusion.
The 2014 Villa Maria Ngakirikiri tells a significantly different Cabernet story; one of intricately entwined, sinewy flavours that speak in hushed, breathy tones rather than a roar.
The 2018 Villa Maria Ngakirikiri moves in yet a different direction, with richer red fruits closely embracing blackberry and mulberry, and the richness of coffee grounds with a lick of vanilla adding oomph to the hint of spice.
The newly released 2019 vintage goes back to that angular precision, with firm, refreshing tannins supporting the finely carved flavours of plum, cranberry and sour cherry. A savoury lining of liquorice, capsicum and tomato leaf adds nuance, lift and a crunchy liveliness. This youthful verve, as well as mineral aspects of graphite and wet stone, promise a great path of development. As does the robust poise with which the tannic structure carries the fruit and acidity.
Villa Maria Ngakirikiri makes a very distinctive statement – that New Zealand produces elite Cabernet Sauvignon equal to the world’s best examples, and courageously shows itself to be distinctly different, exhibiting its unique terroir that defines a very special part of New Zealand. It shoulders iconic status with confidence and assurance.
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The post Ngakirikiri: A statement of terroir and age worthiness appeared first on Decanter.