Wine competitions deserve a medal for their contribution to the New Zealand wine industry and the Kiwi consumer. They provide a benchmark for makers and drinkers alike, and without wine competitions I believe the quality of New Zealand wine would be at least 10 years behind its current quality level.
The website wineshow.co.nz lists 12 New Zealand wine competitions. By my count only five of those are still functioning and we are likely to see that number decline even further due to covid disruption.
Are wine competitions still relevant? I believe they are, although perhaps less relevant than they were a decade ago. At this point I should declare an interest. I have judged in 189 wine competitions in 12 countries. I doubt anyone else in New Zealand has been a more active wine judge. I now judge in just one local competition, the NZ International Wine Show, and will continue to judge at annual shows in China, Australia and the UK … covid willing.
One competition that appears to be thriving is the New World Wine Awards. Although commercially driven, the competition uses professional judges and follows the usual wine-show protocols, most notably tasting only “blind” samples. I know most of the judges and can vouch for their expertise and independence.
Producers can enter only wines with a retail value of less than $25 and must have a minimum of 4000 bottles available for sale to the supermarket. This year, the organisers reduced the minimum stock level of sauvignon blanc to 3000 bottles because production levels were down. They also introduced an “Emerging Varietals” class, with a lower minimum volume of 1800 bottles, to encourage entries of lesser-known wines.
To receive a gold medal the wines will have been tasted and graded at least 19 times by 11 different judges. The winning wine in each class (known as a “champion” wine) is tasted at least 36 times and must receive a thumbs-up from all the judges.
There are 10 champion wines in the competition. My notes for each are below. Given the price cap of $25, I would say that all the wines offer great value.
The Top 50, which include all of the 10 champion wines listed below, will be available (except in licensing trust areas) from Oct 4. They will be priced at $25 or less until Nov 7, and available while stocks last. Good luck.
NV Lindauer Special Reserve Rosé, $14.99
Reasonably deep, pink/orange hue. Bone-dry and moderately weighty wine with hints of strawberry, raspberry and toasted nut. Serious sparkling rosé at a frivolous price.
2021 Rapaura Springs Reserve, Marlborough, $14.99
Well-made, appealing and flavoursome pinot gris with classic pear, apple and honeysuckle flavours. This wine is delicately luscious without being at all sweet. It has good weight and an ethereal texture.
2021 Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14.99
Pure, precise and punchy sauvignon blanc with gooseberry, green capsicum and lime-zest flavours and a suggestion of passionfruit. Nicely balanced wine with taut acidity that helps drive a lengthy finish.
2021 Villa Maria Reserve Albariño, Hawke's Bay, under $19.99
Creamy textured wine that offers a seductively smooth first impression with a crisp and refreshing finish. It’s gently aromatic, with hints of mandarin, grapefruit and wild flowers. This Spanish grape variety is adapting well to its new home in this country, with many, including me, believing it has a great future here.
2020 te Pā Marlborough Chardonnay, $20.99
This is a seriously good chardonnay that gets a tick in every box from me. Smooth-textured wine conjures up images of whipped cream, green apple, nectarine and a suggestion of hazelnut. It’s bright, vibrant and refreshing and just the thing for pan-fried snapper garnished with a squeeze of lime.
2021 Waipara Hills Pinot Noir Rosé, Waipara, $14.99
Delicate yet flavoursome rosé with red cherry, raspberry pastille, anise, and subtle rose-petal flavours. Creamy-textured wine that is deliciously drinkable now. Serve well chilled. A bargain at this price. Stock up for summer.
2020 McArthur Ridge Brass Knocker Pinot Noir, Central Otago, $19.99
From the world’s most southerly wine region. Sleek, suave Central Otago pinot noir with bright black Doris plum, black cherry, violet, tamarillo and fresh herb flavours. A wine of subtle power and high energy.
2019 La Mascota Mendoza Malbec, $23.99
Argentinian malbec is one of the world’s leading blockbuster wine styles, delivering more bang per buck than any wine I can think of. Some can be overpowering but this is a more elegant style than most, with plum, spice, chocolate/mocha and vanilla flavours. Great with braised lamb shanks.
2020 Trinity Hill The Trinity, Hawke's Bay, $18.99
A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Deep, dense red with plum, cassis, blackcurrant and chocolate/mocha flavours. It is an elegant wine from a top vintage. Deliciously approachable now but promises to get even better with a little bottle age.
2020 Trinity Hill Syrah, Hawke's Bay, $18.99
Rich, deep and warming syrah with dark berry, plum, black cracked pepper and dark chocolate flavours and subtle floral/red rose petal tones. Beautifully balanced wine that, like a perfectly prepared dish, manages to harmonise acidity, astringency and alcohol sweetness. Approachable now but will develop well with bottle age.
Find the full list at New World Wine Awards