Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Hawkes Bay Merlot 2016 was awarded the Bayleys Real Estate Champion Merlot, Cabernet and Blends Trophy at the prestigious Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2017 on Saturday night.

“This result validates our belief that not only is organic management great for the health of our vineyards, it’s also producing high quality wine,” said Nick Picone, Villa Maria Group Chief Winemaker.

Villa Maria’s journey into organics started with the vision of Sir George and the Joseph Soler vineyard planted in 2001. “We have come a long way thanks to a talented and collaborative viticulture team who are passionate advocates of organic principles, and a winemaking team who are experienced at coaxing the finest qualities out of Hawkes Bay Merlot. The combination of our efforts has delivered a wonderfully fragrant, supple and smooth drinking Merlot, and a reward we are all exceptionally proud of.”

The Air New Zealand Wine Awards Trophy is timely as Villa Maria continues to champion organic techniques throughout their vineyards. Currently, 30 percent of Villa Maria Estate owned vineyards are under organic management, on track towards the goal of 50 percent by 2020. “We believe that what is good for our vineyards will ultimately be good for our wines,” said Picone.