A lot of work goes into making great grapes for great wines and taste is a very important part, Villa Maria Estate viticulturist Jonathan Hamlet says.

Mr Hamlet is the viticulturist in charge of the grapes that went into Hawke's Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards Champion of Show wine - Te Awa's Single Estate Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

Mr Hamlet said he was over the moon that Te Awa won the award because it is a really excellent brand.

Read more: Te Awa trumps wine awards
Hawke's Bay continues to hone winemaking pedigree


"I think it's fantastic, our approach as a team is to make excellent wines that reflect where we have grown them and this is a very good example of it.

"It's an elegant wine that reflects the Gimblett Gravels area where it is grown.

"It's quite an excellent place with an opportunity to make nice Bordeaux blends, something Hawke's Bay does extremely well."

The grapes in the champion wine came from two Te Awa merlot blocks, one cabernet and one malbec.

"Te Awa is a very special site, it produces some pretty excellent wines," he said.

"We were pretty lucky that season ... a good growing season."

Even before the growing season started, he knew which grapes would be going into that wine and all staff were tasked to make sure they were properly looked after.

The entire process is based on quality and Mr Hamlet's team will do whatever it takes, Mr Hamlet said.

"We're prepared to do a bit of extra work to ensure the quality is absolutely maximised."

All grape bunches have selected leaves removed by hand to help grow a nice, smooth grape with a good balance of acidity, he said.

As harvest neared, Mr Hamlet and the winemaker, Richard Painter, chose some grapes and tasted them every few days.

There are, of course, scientific tests and analysis on the grapes but when the pair thought the grape tasted like it had a nice fruit concentration and balance of tannins they were picked.

"The grapes are very much picked based on flavour, it really is a team approach."

The viticulture team then harvested the grapes which were given to the winemaker.

Mr Hamlet will always get feedback on how his blocks performed.

Recently Te Awa converted nearly 20 hectares of vineyard into organic management including two of the blocks that went into the champion wine, he said.

"I'm pleased to be bringing it to Te Awa, it's excellent."

Villa Maria has been growing organic grapes for more than 16 years and converting some of Te Awa into organic management is part of the company's future plans to progress in sustainability.

"Our overall goal is for it all to be organic."

The chief judge at last week's wine awards, Rod Easthope, said the supreme award was very difficult to judge.

"Great wines have an amazing juxtaposition of freshness, balance, poise and intensity of flavour and this wine has that in spades.

"Classic Bordeaux style in flavour, Te Awa's Merlot Cab Sav oozes structure and texture with its base notes of cassis, blackberry and plum but its floral/dried herb, spicy lift is what really sets it apart."