On Tuesday evening there will be glasses raised to a special wine. It will be the wine judged to be the Champion Wine of Show; the best of the Bay; the top drop, as declared by the judges of the 15th Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards. The event is now an established part of the region’s world-class wine industry and the nod as the Bay’s best wine is eagerly sought by winemakers, viticulturists, winery management — everyone on deck, so to speak. Leading up to the big night, where wines will be tasted and toasted and awards poured out, Hawke’s Bay Today will profile the 14 Champion Wine of Show winners. Today we feature Villa Maria’s winning drop Champion Wine of Show for 2011: Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010

Three years after picking up their first Champion Wine of Show the Villa Maria winemaking crew were again in the spotlight.

In 2008 it had been a fine red which won up the trophy - in the form of the Cellar Selection Syrah 2006.

For 2011 it was a fine white - the Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010.

It would be the first of two Champion Wine of Show awards Villa Maria would pick up with chardonnays (the trifecta of trophies would be complete another three years later in 2014 with another Keltern-sourced effort).

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For Villa Maria's chief winemaker, Nick Picone, the answer to success, apart from motivated and smart winemaking, literally lies in the soil.

The Keltern vineyard near Maraekakaho is a top venue for the creation of top wines, especially chardonnays.

It is a warm inland site buffered by the Ngaruroro River and spread across an ancient riverbed. It has deep loams and free-draining gravels rocks.

He said while Keltern wines already had a good reputation prior to 2011, in all likelihood it was the 2010 vintage which led to the wine really taking off and attracting the attention of critics and consumers alike.

"Now each vintage sells out and the wines have a very strong following," Mr Picone said.

Awards such as the Champion of Show for the Hawke's Bay region cemented the reputation of a wine, and the Keltern Chardonnay 2010 was rightly acclaimed, he said.

Besides the local success it also gathered a record 11 trophies at shows and competitions the same year.