Villa Maria makes Nelson move
Leading wine company Villa Maria may increase its Nelson presence after being impressed with the quality of grapes from its new contract grower Golden Hills Estates.
The winery, which has vineyards in four regions and exports to more than 50 countries, made its first major foray into Nelson this season when it took about 100 tonnes of grapes from Golden Hills.
Villa Maria winemaking and viticulture general manager Alastair Maling said it was very happy with the quality of sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and pinot noir grapes from the Nelson grape grower which it had secured under a medium term contract.
Until approached by Golden Hills, Villa Maria had been dealing with only one Nelson grower for the last few years who had been supplying just 20 tonnes of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, Mr Maling said.
If quality could be maintained, there was the chance Villa Maria could increase its presence in Nelson, he said.
"We are not actively chasing extra fruit but if we get contacted we will certainly go and have a look."
Any expansion would be through contracting growers rather than buying vineyards, he said.
"We have a large number of grape growers around New Zealand and we have a great relationship and often they grow the grapes better than we can. We are better to put our focus into the brand and the making and selling of the wine."
Grapes taken from Nelson would continue to be processed at its Marlborough winery and go into its general brands, he said.
"We take fruit out of Waipara, Hawke's Bay and Nelson. Marlborough is the main region, it has an amazing brand presence in the world, but these other regions all help spread the risk."
Mr Maling said Villa Maria had not got caught out by this year's harvest which was down 19 per cent due to early moves to secure more fruit, and was paying the same price as last year for contracted grapes at just over $1000 per tonne.
"People realise the reality of the market and while everyone is a little bit short we are in the game for the long term."
Jeff Marr, owner of Golden Hills, refused to comment. The 71-hectare vineyard has been on the market since last year, with one of four blocks having sold, according to real estate firm Bayleys.
Nelson Winegrowers Association chairman Mike Brown welcomed Villa Maria's growing interest in Nelson, saying it was good news for the region.
- © Fairfax NZ News