New winemaker for Villa Maria

Winemakers move around all the time (especially in Chile) and usually I don't get too excited about it. But I have been intrigued to know who will replace Michelle Richardson at New Zealand's finest large winery Villa Maria ever since this talented young dynamo announced she was leaving.

I learnt today that her successor will be another winemaker I have a lot of time for, and one of my fellow Masters of Wine to boot. Alistair Maling is a New Zealander who has been based in Britain for many years but whizzing around the wine world as a flying winemaker for International Wine Services, one of the UK's powerful outfits that makes wines to order especially for British retailers. His speciality was Spain and IWS's Spanish range has been consistently exciting, innovative and well-made.

George Fistonich who runs the sister companies Villa Maria, Esk Valley and Vidal is famous for choosing the right staff and giving them creative freedom. Sounds to me as though he has chosen well this time.

I also hear that he is to announce very shortly that all Villa Maria's wines will be bottled under screwcaps, joining Kumeu River, et al (see my report on the Master of Wine Symposium in Vienna last month).