01 Sep

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.