June 15, 2015 (New Zealand) — Nick Picone has been appointed Chief Winemaker of the Villa Maria Group after 18 years with the winery. The position oversees all of Villa Maria Group’s winemaking which includes: Villa Maria, Vidal Estate, Esk Valley, Te Awa Collection, Thornbury, Riverstone and Wise Owl.
With several prestigious awards to his name, including an Australasian award for Young Winemaker of the Year, Picone has been responsible for making hundreds of the winery’s global trophy and medal winning wines for many years.
CEO Sir George Fistonich said he couldn’t have hoped for a more highly skilled person for the position, “He’s an extremely talented winemaker with an exceptional palate and has demonstrated a natural ability with wine right from the start of his career. Fostering talent in our industry is something I’m passionate about and I’m proud to have seen Nick develop his skills over the years working in all of our winemaking regions. Throughout our 54 year history my focus has always been on creating the highest quality wines and we’ve achieved this through selection of the best vineyard sites, but also seeking out the very best people and Nick is without a doubt one of the New Zealand wine industry’s shining stars.”
Picone brings a wealth of experience to the position. Raised in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand, his first wine job was at boutique producer Esk Valley Estate. From there he moved to Marlborough and then later to Auckland to oversee Villa Maria’s Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne winemaking operations. In 2006 he spent time working for Villa Maria’s international distributor Hatch Mansfield in the United Kingdom, followed by a vintage at GD Vajra in Barolo, Italy. He has also completed two vintages at DeLoach vineyards in California.
Picone’s winemaking awards and achievements include:
- 2014 – Listed in an international selection of “30 winemakers under 40 to watch” by Drinks Business UK.
- 2013 – Awarded “Winemaker of the Year” at the New Zealand International Wine Show.
- 2012 – Awarded Wine Society Australasia’s “Young Winemaker of the Year,” becoming the first New Zealander to receive the award in the competition’s 12 year history.
- 2011 – Joint winner of the “New Zealand Winemaker of the Year” at the Royal Easter Wine Awards.
- 2004 – Awarded the New Zealand Yalumba scholarship to attend the Len Evans Tutorial. There were 12 places available, only one of which was available to a New Zealander.
About Villa Maria
The Villa Maria story is one of absolute passion. Each wine is crafted in the unique, fruit-driven style of New Zealand, showcasing the very best of the country’s distinct wine regions. Villa Maria sources grapes from New Zealand’s premium grape growing regions, including Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, and produces wines in state-of-the-art winemaking facilities in Auckland and Marlborough. The winery Sir George Fistonich started in 1961 is still family owned and stands as an icon of superior quality and innovation in New Zealand winemaking. Villa Maria was also the first wine company in New Zealand to declare the winery a “cork-free zone,” sealing all wines from the 2001 vintage onwards with a screwcap to ensure quality in every bottle. Dedicated to minimizing environmental impact, Villa Maria has pioneered sustainable viticulture and winemaking since the 1990s, and is one of the very few wineries that have acquired four certifications as proof of the on-going commitment. In 2015, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and fourth most admired wine brand in the word. To learn more, visit www.villamaria.co.nz/.