Bragato Wine Awards

Romeo Bragato, an Italian Viticulturalist and visionary, was based in Australia as the Victorian Government Viticulturalist between 1888 and 1901. Romeo then moved to New Zealand and was our Government Viticulturalist between 1902 and 1909. Romeo’s work included identifying grape varieties that suited NZ’s diverse climatic conditions, grafting phylloxera resistant root stocks, vineyard layout and many viticultural practices. The Bragato Wine Awards are named after this legendary viticulturalist and are one of the two shows owned and run by NZ Wine Growers, the other of course, the Air NZ Wine Awards.
The Bragato Wine Awards are unique in many ways, more so than ever this year with the move to all wines being from Single Vineyards. The judging for the Bragato Awards occurs in August each year. As such, this is one of the first competitions to see the new vintage releases; excellent to see the new 2017 vintage with four gold medals for very such young, new to market wines. There’s also no volume requirements for this show, thus it attracts those very small producers that just don’t have the volume for larger shows. The Bragato Wine Awards also award the results to the growers, those who grew the grapes to make the winning wine. In my opinion, all of this makes the Bragato Wine Awards a very special and important show for the NZ wine industry – celebrating single vineyards and the people who grow the grapes there, people and their place.

Bragato team 2017

For this year’s judging, the chairman of the show was once again Ben Glover. Ben has been instrumental in moving the Bragato Wine Awards to the single vineyard focus it has today, a direction I strongly believe in. Wine is after all an expression of the place it comes from, interpreted through winemaking.
This year’s competition attracted 506 Entries, 49 Gold medals were awarded and 14 trophies handed out, including this year, The Glengarry Trophy for Sparkling Wine. Each year an international judge assists to provide an international view on the wines, this year that was David Stevens-Castro, an excellent taster with a broad knowledge. The Senior Judges for 2017 were Rod Easthope, Francis Hutt, Jeremy McKenzie, James Millton, Helen Morrison, Simon Nunns, Barry Riwai and myself.
The results from this year’s judging are hot off the press and I must admit, I’m super proud to have played my small role in selecting these wines. What an exciting array of wines they are, all very much an expression of the single vineyard in which they were grown.
You’ll find many of the award-winning wines here on our website. www.glengarrywines.co.nz/bragato

Craft Farm by Ant Mackenzie

Recalling the numbers of years I have known Ant leaves me feeling very old indeed. Ant, like many a NZ Winery professional, started working for Sir George Fistonich; for Ant it was in Hawke’s Bay, at Vidal’s Winery. The years that followed saw Ant involved with many a well-known winery: Spy Valley, Framingham, Mud House, Dry River and Te Awa. The latter now ironically owned by Sir George; how things go in circles.

Whilst still with hands in many projects, Ant has his own range of wines now. In fact, there are three ranges in total: Craft Farm, Toño and Theory & Practice. Craft Farm is the name of Ant’s small vineyard in Havelock North. Relatively new vineyards, the vines were planted by family and friends over three consecutive years, starting in 2010. The viticulture is organically minded, there’s no irrigation and organic farming is practiced (though not certified). Ant has planted a mix of clones, whether that’s because that’s what he had access to or a conscious decision, to me it’s the right decision. A contentious issue for some; the analogy that springs to mind for me is milk production. Growing a harmonious crop for cattle does produce consistency in milk. Is that though what we are looking for in wine? Not in my book; an expression of the place, translated through a variety of clones, for me, produces a far better glass of wine, a Crafted Wine.

Ant’s Craft Farm Wines (with the other ranges too) are now being sold online by Glengarry. These wines are part of a new initiative from Glengarry that sees wineries being able to sell their wines through our website. A new approach that supports wineries in New Zealand, opens doors and gives the small producers a route to market.

The State of NZ Wines

 

Of all the wine shows out there, there are just two that are owned by NZ Winegrowers: the Air NZ
Wine Awards and the lesser known little brother, the Bragato Wine Awards. Historically lost a little
behind the Air NZ Wine Awards might (likely due to the exposure opportunities the $ of the
sponsorship brings), the Bragato Wine Awards play an important role. Named after Romeo Bragato,
the New Zealand Government Viticulturist from 1902 – 1909, the Bragato Wine Awards champion
Domain wines – where grapes are coming from owned vineyards and single vineyard sites. In
addition, the lower minimum quantity requirement (than the Air NZ Awards) results in many smaller
producers being able to enter. As the first show after new vintage releases start hitting the shelves,
it’s also a good gauge of how the vintage is looking.

 

I had the opportunity to join the judging again this year, which took place in mid August. Great to be able to see such a wide variety of wines and judge with such a talented team. The results will be out

by the time this is published and the award winning wines are well worth hunting out. The individual
results are not what I wanted to share here, but more some observations I walked away with from
the judging and the colourful discussion.

An absolute highlight was the Cabernet dominant class. We were blessed with the vintages on the table this year ‐ 2013, 2014 and 2015. It’s been widely reported that 13 and 14 are exceptionalvintages for Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke, being the two regions that Cabernet dominant wines love.

The 2015 vintage though showed exceptionally well and is right up there with the preceding
vintages; something very rare indeed, three excellent vintages in a row. I am guilty of not having
tasted a lot of NZ Cabernet of late, with my recent travels taking me to Bordeaux to taste new
vintages there. I was super impressed with the overall quality, the results when out will highlight this
further; do hunt out the award winners in store, they are well worth taking a look at.
The Pinot Noir category as you can imagine was large and diverse, the quality unmistakable; there’s
a reason the rest of the world are standing up and taking notice. The very best of the Syrah flights
were super and would leave many a Rhône producer speechless.

Within the White categories, Sauvignon Blanc (whilst not everyone’s favourite to judge, particularly
at 8am) showed why NZ Sauvignon is such a distinctive and unique style. Pinot Gris was so much
more consistent than I’ve seen it in the past, a clearer sense of a NZ Pinot Gris style emerging.
Chardonnay, as you would expect, created the most conversation amongst the judges, the differing
faces of Chardonnay pushing boundaries, which I believe is a good thing.
All in all, two days of intense judging and it’s clear that the NZ Wine industry is in good shape. Do
taste for yourself though; this month at Glengarry we take a regional road trip around NZ and
explore this great country of ours.