Twenty-six wines have achieved the highest-possible ranking in the recently launched Real Review Wine Classification of New Zealand.

The award of “3 Merit” status recognises them as being iconic wines with an exemplary track record of 10 or more years. 

To be ranked in this ultimate group, they had to score 98 points or more in tastings by expert judges.

The Real Review Wine Classification has set its standards high, aiming to classify no more than 7% of all New Zealand wines.

To date, less than half of 1% have achieved entry into the “3 Merit” tier. The super 26 are: 

Felton Road Wines Block 1 Riesling; Framingham Noble Riesling; Kusuda Riesling.

Bell Hill Chardonnay; Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay; Felton Road Wines Block 2 Chardonnay; Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay; Neudorf Home Block Moutere Chardonnay.

Bilancia La Collina Syrah; Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah; Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah; Trinity Hill Homage Syrah.

Pinot noir
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir; Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir; Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna Pinot Noir; Dry River Pinot Noir; Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir; Felton Road Wines Block 5 Pinot Noir; Felton Road Wines Block 3 Pinot Noir; Felton Road Wines Cornish Point Pinot Noir; Fromm Winery Clayvin Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Red blends
Craggy Range Sophia; Craggy Range The Quarry; Puriri Hills Harmonie du Soir; Te Mata Estate Coleraine.

Framingham Noble Riesling.

The wine classification has two other tiers:

● 2 Merit wines are those that have achieved gold and high silver ribbons in recent vintages, with top vintages achieving 96 points or more.

● 1 Merit wines are those that reliably achieve gold and silver ribbons in recent vintages, with top vintages achieving 95 points or more.

Many of the wines in The Real Review Wine Classification of New Zealand have earned their place over several decades. 

A companion assessment, The Real Review Wine Classification of Australia, rates wines produced across the Tasman. 

A wine that has been classified will retain its tier for at least four years. 

During that period, the wine has the opportunity to improve its tier in the annual review. 

This ensures continuity in the face of one or two poor vintages. 


If, after four years, the wine’s quality falls below the tier’s standard, it will lose a merit or be de-classified. 

Each classified wine meeting the annual classification assessment will also have its tier extended by a further four years.

The Real Review is a collaboration between several professional wine tasters  ̶  I am one of them  ̶  who taste and assess a high percentage of newly released wines which can then be accessed by subscribers to The Real Review website.

Outstanding quality

Our aim is to classify those wines which have demonstrated outstanding quality time and again over a long period, regardless of price. 

Overseas, some classification systems are based on price or auction performance while others, such as the Burgundy Grand Cru/Premier Cru, classify vineyard sites. 

The Real Review Wine Classification is based on quality in the glass. 

It is a result of our team’s combined experience of tasting thousands of wines every year and publishing more than 130,000 reviews to help our readers to make informed choices about what to buy.