NZ wine’s free hotline

It’s the gift that keeps on giving from now until Friday 6 January 2017.  It is free wine advice at the end of the  #VillaMariaHelpline to answer New Zealanders’ wine queries.

The large, family owned New Zealand wine company launched its helpline to ease what chief winemaker Nick Picone describes as festive fear about buying wines that are special or celebratory.

“We put a lot of effort into the Christmas season and unless we’re wine specialists, it can be daunting finding that perfect wine to gift or match with food. The Villa Maria Helpline was designed to support New Zealanders with their decision making and ease stress over the festive season,” says Picone, who is among those specialists on the other end of the hotline.

To call the new wine hotline, tag #VillaMariaHelpline with a wine related question via a personal Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account and a Villa Maria wine specialist will respond.

The #VillaMariaHelpline service runs for four weeks from Friday 9 December 2016 to Friday 6 January 2017.

Wines with tough names don’t sell easily…

Does pronounceability affect sale-ability?

If you’re looking for a new drink experience, which wine will tickle your fancy? A glass of unpronounceable Give-urtz-tram-eener, Vee-oh-nee-ay or Ree-ok-a?

A Sem-ee-on or Ar-nays?

Or maybe a new brand of Chardonnay or Pinot Gris that leaps onto your radar. After all, who wants to risk saying the wrong thing?

Well, some of us are gifted at saying just the wrong thing, but that’s another story. Ever since I wrote my first Under $15 Wine Guide back in the early 2000s, I’ve been a fan of wines with tricky names, such as Nero d’Avola, a lovely big soft red from Sicily and Verdicchio; a big full bodied white from Italy’s Adriatic coast.

Today I asked winemaker Lynnette Hudson of Tongue in Groove wines whether winemakers find that pronounceability and saleability are related and she said: “Yes, definitely, it’s really hard to get people to try things that are difficult to say because if you can’t pronounce it, then how can you tell your friends about it?”

It’s that intimidation factor that makes it tough to sell wines with unusual names.

How to find new flavours

Ask your local wine retailer how to pronounce names that are unusual

Spread your wings – and your wines Try the A to V of new wave wines

Arneis and Verdicchio are the tip of a far bigger iceberg of experimental wines in New Zealand – made locally and imported.

How do we pronounce weird wine names?








Sauvignon Blanc 






Rioja (the main ingredient is Tempranillo, hence the new found popularity of it)



The above may seem obvious, to some, but not to all and correct pronunciation can make all the difference between being able to sell – and enjoy making or drinking – a wine. 

 Three top weekend whites

2013 Villa Maria Private Bin Arneis East Coast $12-$14

“Ar-nays” is the name of a white grape that originally comes from the north of Italy and is now grown in New Zealand – it is a fresh, light bodied white with flavours of ripe lemons and a dry, crisp style. Refreshing and great value.

2015 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Albarino Gisborne $22-ish

“Alba-reen-yo” is the name of a white grape that comes from the border of north west Spain and north west Portugal (where it’s called Alvarinho). It’s a dry, medium bodied white with fresh, slightly salty flavours. Easier to say than most of the new wave of unusual, lesser known grape varieties.

2015 Umani Ronchi Casal de Serre Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi $23

“Ver-deek-ee-oh” is my favourite white grape (and wine) from Italy because it combines the full body of Chardonnay with the fresh lemony acidity of Riesling, even though it tastes like neither of these two – Verdicchio is a dry, full bodied and extremely good value white wine, which is available at specialist wine stores. This is a grape that I’d love to see growing in New Zealand – now, here’s hoping it may make its way to our maritime wine regions…

Happy weekend wine drinking – and thinking.

These wines may be challenging to say but their flavours are easy to enjoy – as  Oscar Wilde said; the true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

Listen to pronounceability and saleability on RNZ National’s podcast here:

Wine of the week… Villa Maria Arneis

Wine of the week

2013 Villa Maria Private Bin Arneis $12 to $15.99

Arneis is an Italian white grape which has found its way to New Zealand where a small number of good quality white wines are being made, such as this stunning little steal from Villa Maria – its Private Bin Arneis, which costs about $12 and is available in supermarkets.

This is dry, fresh and light bodied withlemon zest, apples and white flower-like flavours; its freshness comes from its high but balanced acidity, with nutty and yeasty flavours adding character to this low priced, high quality wine.

The word Arneis is Italian for little rascal, which has something to do with it being a tad tricky to grow in its original home region of Piemonte in the north west of Italy – a region surrounded by 550 kilometres of mountains, which encircle its vineyards and act as a giant air conditioner.