Darragh Hughes


I began my winemaking career in 2007 studying in Gisborne and then at AUT a few years later. This started an amazing journey for me in the world of wine and has taken me around the world.  I’ve been privileged enough to have worked in southern Rhone, Sonoma County and travelled through Italy tasting wines and enjoying amazing food experiences. In NZ I have also worked vintages in Marlborough, Gisborne, Auckland.

My first wine experience started a long time ago. Growing up in Ireland, I listened to my uncle’s who were both wine merchants in the UK, tell stories about travelling through Italy and France. They would purchase wine off small producers who were so passionate about what they did, these producers loved the land that made such great wine, and had great stories to tell about every wine. My uncle's would bring these unique wines and stories back to the UK and offer their customers something different. Fortunately, I got to smell and taste (when I was old enough) some special vintages, and listen to my uncles talk about what it took to make great wine. All of these producers had something in common. They were passionate people and the love for their land and region were so important to making great wines. These stories have always stayed with me and have help me in my wine career. Some of my overseas winemaking experiences took me to places where the big reds of the world are produced, such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Napa Cabinet Sauvignon’s.

I feel so lucky to live, and make wine in Hawke’s Bay. The wines made here, I believe, are up with the best in the world. My winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention, letting the wines speak of where they come from. The Gimblett Gravels is a special piece of land that produces outstanding “Hard hitting reds” and I’m looking forward to showing off some of our Villa Maria’s big reds and telling our stories. 

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