Wine News

NZ International Wine Show 2019 Trophy Winners Announced!

Following a magnificent awards night presentation on Friday 25 October, 24 Trophies were awarded for best in class wines, winemaker and wine company of the show and the Sir George Fistonich medal for a Legend of New Zealand Wine. 

The Nissan Champion Wine of the Show was awarded to the sensational Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2017.  This is a sensually smoky, silky, ruby-hued pinot with bright cherry fruit cocooned by soft chocolatey oak, woodsmoke and anise-like spices with refreshing acidity adding vibrancy to the juicy, supple, super long, satisfying finish. 

All the Trophy winners and all medal results are available on the NZ International Wine Show website.

Since it’s inception in 2005, the New Zealand International Wine Show has been the largest wine judging competition in the country. Chief Judge, Bob Campbell MW is ranked as the most experienced wine judge in New Zealand. He also has a formidable team of Assistant Chief Judges – Larry Mckenna, John Hancock and Tony Bish. 

This year the team of 24 senior judges awarded 291 Gold Medals, 376 Silver and 700 Bronze Medals - the highest number of gold medals ever awarded in this competition reflecting the outstanding 2019 vintage in New Zealand, the run of excellent vintages in Australia and overall quality of entries.

The judges commented that it was the best quality line up of wines they have encountered in a wine competition. The major producers all achieved significant medal success but a large number of “smaller” first time entrants also won gold medals. These awards provide them with the opportunity to market their wines, with the public appreciating the medals awarded in a totally unbiased and professional situation.

First Glass Wine Options 2019

The date for the 2019 First Glass Wine Options has been confirmed for Sunday 16 June, starting at 1:30 p.m. at 22 Northcroft St in Takapuna, Auckland.  

Teams of 4 can enter at a cost of $200 per team.  Team entries are limited to a total of 15, and must be received by First Glass with full payment by Friday 7 June.  There are also a limited amount of spectator seats at a cost of $30 per person.

Contact First Glass for an entry form on 09 4866415 or email shop@firstglass.co.nz

Gold medals announced for the inaugural New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards

Following three days of judging over 1300 wines, 77 gold medals have been awarded in the inaugural New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards.

Chair of the New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards Warren Gibson says he was very pleased to see a spread of gold medals throughout the majority of the New Zealand’s wine regions. The larger areas of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago took out the lion’s share of the awards but golds were also given to Gisborne, Martinborough, Nelson, Canterbury and North Otago.

“The gold medal list shows that our maturing and evolving wine industry begins to display a very strong relationship between variety, style and wine region. This link appears far more dramatic than in past awards and suggests we are beginning to find a true sense of place.”

Marlborough dominated the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sparkling and aromatics classes. Central Otago similarly was prominent in Riesling and Pinot Noir, as has been the recent norm. Chardonnay was shared between Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough and the full-bodied red classes were very strong and as expected, dominated by Hawke’s Bay.

“The average quality of the wines was very high, particularly considering the recent challenging vintages in a number of regions”, said Mr Gibson.

In addition to the 77 gold medals, 236 silver medals and 601 bronze medals were awarded by a team of 29 judges. There was a total of 914 medals awarded across 16 classes, including the newly introduced Provenance Class, in which wines were judged over three vintages.

The 77 gold medal winning wines are now vying for the 13 varietal trophies and 11 regional trophies with the winners of these trophies announced on Wednesday 24 October.

The final act will be the awarding of the eight major trophies for the New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards. These will be announced at the New Zealand Wine Awards dinner on Saturday 3 November and include; New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Champion, Best Single Vineyard White Wine, Best Single Vineyard Red Wine, Best Open White Wine, Best Open Red Wine, Best Organic White Wine, Best Organic Red Wine and Best Wine of Provenance.

More information on New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards can be found at https://www.nzwine.com/en/events/new-zealand-wine-of-the-year-awards/

Kingsley Wood on Tour - Central Otago - Part Two

There are numerous sub regions making up the wine areas of Central Otago. I split up the main ones over two days – Cromwell/Bannockburn/Wanaka then the Lake Hayes/Gibbston area. The weather was ideal for visiting wineries, cold, wet, miserable in every respect – perfect.
 
We may have been lucky with our trip over the Crown Range as the snow at the top had turned to rain, lots of it, as we crawled our way down. We drove past several very recent slips and later that day the road was closed – for the next 2 days.
 
We started our day at fabulous Amisfield. You hear various comments about their experiences at Amisfield but there is no question that this place would rate in any of the world’s greatest wine regions. They charge $10 for a tasting of any 5 wines, including the Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir that retails for $120. And they use Riedel tasting glasses – it’s a class act.
 
Travel a couple of kilometres along Lake Hayes towards Arrowtown and you find the restaurant and tasting room (container) featuring the wines from Akarua. They have a reasonably substantial restaurant – serving breakfast and lunch and it was fully booked out on this day of miserable weather. They charge $5 for 5 wines.
 
Drive back to Amisfield, go up the hill and you find “Wet Jacket” – owned, run and named by Grey Hay – ex Peregrine. This is an old stone shearing shed – some of the shearing set up is still in place, but next door you can sample the local wines for $5 on the days they have the food truck outside. The Whitestone Cheese room, part of the complex, is well worth a visit. It was great to catch up with Greg Hay – our first encounter was around 35 years ago when several teams from Central Otago travelled to Dunedin for the Wilson Neill Wine Options competitions.
 
Our next visit was Chard Farm and we can tell people the entrance road has not changed. I cannot believe we once persuaded a driver to take a full-size bus into that winery. There’s a big range of wines to taste at Chard Farm and you pay a donation to do so – there is no set fee. No food – no fixed tasting fee. Rob Hay was our host at Chard Farm.
 
The Peregrine winery has not really changed since my last visit – some 14 years ago. The winery was new then, the winemaker was Michelle Richardson and there were only a few barrels in evidence – it’s now full. There is no charge to taste 4 wines at Peregrine and they are open from 11 am to 6 pm.
 
On the region’s wine map we noticed there was a Gibbston Tavern located on Coal Pit Road. This road is only a few hundred metres from Peregrine and we decided to check it out for lunch. The Tavern looks like a little old rustic building, and we are told it was made from containers – but you wouldn’t know it. The wood-fired pizza with a glass of Peregrine Chardonnay was very agreeable.
 
Travel up Coal Pit road, turn along Gibbston Back Road (which runs parallel to the Gibbston Highway) and you arrive at Brennan Wines. Open from 11 – 5, you pay $15 for a tasting of their wines, which are all made from locally grown Gibbston fruit.
 
Back on the main road we discovered Kinross. There’s a lot on offer here. Open 7 days, 8 am – 5 pm, they have boutique accommodation, a bistro, cellar door ($15 for 5 wines) and you can taste wines from Valli, Hawkshead, Coal Pit, Domaine Thomson and Wild Irishman. Kinross was packed with tourists and we thought this was a place to include on your visiting list.
 
Our last stop in the Gibbston Valley was to Waitiri Creek. They open 7 days 11 – 5, they have a busy kitchen (at least 3 people working in there) and for $12 you can taste 4 wines – or 4 craft beers. They have a lovely garden setting, somewhat inappropriate on the day we called in.
 
Heading back to Wanaka we decided we had to revisit Archangel which had been closed on the Tuesday. It’s closed every Tuesday. You will find Archangel at Queensbury – approximately 20 minutes out of Wanaka. This is a new complex, there is a food menu and every Sunday the Food Truck arrives. It’s $3 to taste each wine – rebatable if you purchase 2 bottles. Nothing to do in Wanaka or Cromwell, it’s worth the drive – but not on a Tuesday.
 
So that was my whistle stop trip around a lot of Central Otago wineries – 25 were open, 5 closed and while we tasted wines at only a few places, if you were planning on plenty of tasting you would need about 4 days to get around so many venues.

Kingsley Wood on Tour - Central Otago – Part One

They say timing is important in life – well how about choosing a suitable week to visit the wineries in Central Otago, in February, and you get a cyclone and snow.  Like a good Auckland resident, you travel with shorts and then the high for the day is forecast to be 6 degrees.  The shops in Wanaka have no long-sleeved shirts on the racks, unless you want to buy something for the mountains which costs $400 – and will probably last a lifetime.  I am envious of the 25 degrees forecast for the North Shore!

However, we didn’t need fine weather when my plan was to visit as many winery cellar doors as I could over two days.  Day one was around Cromwell and Bannockburn and the Gibbston/Arrowtown area the next day.  Sadly, there was not time to get down to Alexandra. 

My plan was to visit the Cellar Doors that were open – not intending to taste at most, it was just a chance to see what was new, what the wineries were offering – and charging.  We found out that many wineries did not charge for a tasting, supposedly because they did not provide any food.  What did surprise me, since my last visit about three years ago, was the incredible increase in vineyard plantings, mainly across the Lowburn/Dunstan plains, but even in Bannockburn and the famous Felton Road.

While scaffolding companies are ‘creaming it’ in Auckland, netting companies must be doing very well in Central Otago.  With the vintage still expected to be early, there are hundreds of hectares of vineyards covered in nets – it’s a great sight for the tourists.

These are the wineries I visited and this is what they offer:

Wanaka based Maude Wines now has a retail presence in town.  They share the facilities with French themed restaurant Bistro Gentil – Maude has the day, the restaurant the evenings.  They are right across from the Wanaka golf course – tourists could walk there.  Maude offers a sit down hosted tasting of five wines for $15.  We had a talk with the charming winemaker Sarah-Kate Dineen, in fact all of the staff were hospitable and knowledgeable. 

There must be no winery in New Zealand more photographed, or visited, than Rippon and because they don’t provide food, the tastings are free.  There were at least 50 people there when we called – they should work out how to charge people – few would complain.

Our first call in Bannockburn was to Mt Difficulty.  This winery is probably going to be sold to the Foley Family Group – another string to their bow – Vavasour, Grove Mill, Goldwater, Te Kairanga, Martinborough Vineyards etc.  Mt Difficulty charges $2 for five wines and you can pay $5 for tastings of their limited release pinots, served from the enomatic pourer. And of course, they have their popular restaurant with the amazing view – a must visit.

Felton Road’s actual winery can only be visited by appointment now.  We called, but winemaker Blair Walter was away this week.

Terra Sancta had a sign on the gate “Visits by Appointment Only”.

We were surprised to find a new tasting facility on the hill right next door to Felton Rd.  Domain Rd has 14 acres of vineyards planted there now and their tasting room is made from shipping containers – its new and stylish but apparently the severe heat after Christmas really gave visitors a stressful visit.  No such problem when we called.  They do not charge for the tasting.  Open 11am – 5pm, 7 days.  Check it out.

Just a few hundred metres from Domain Rd, also in Felton Rd, is a sign for Gate 20 Two.  They have a Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, grown on site and made by Mt D. The tasting is conducted in the foyer of the owner’s house – we recommend no more than two people to call at a time.

The other wineries in Bannockburn are located around the Southern end of Lake Dunstan, but still only a couple of kilometres from Felton Rd.  Akarua was proud to tell us about yet another gold medal for their Pinot Noir and I was delighted to see just three Trophy certificates on the walls of the Akarua tasting room – all from the NZ International Wine Show.  There is no charge for the 4 or 5 tasting wines at Akarua.

Bannock Brae was closed so we travelled another few hundred metres to Carrick which has a popular restaurant – almost booked out for lunch.  I’m not a big fan of tastings in stemless glasses and while we decided we would taste the Carrick EBM Chardonnay 2016, the tasting sample was so tiny it really didn’t tell us much.  They charge $10 for 5 wines, but we did notice everyone was getting extremely small servings.

Bald Hills was unfortunately closed but up the hill at Ceres it was all action and delight after the news had filtered through about another gold medal for their Black Rabbit Riesling in the Royal Easter Wine Show Awards.  James Dicey is a compelling figure who will be at First Glass on Wednesday 2nd May. 

Wild Earth now have their wines on for tasting at the Goldfields complex several kilometres along the road to Queenstown and we were hopeful of lunch.  But the presence of a bus and several vans told us the place was pretty full, so it was just a whistle stop to see what they offer.  They have a $10 tasting of 5 wines which is rebated off a wine purchase.

Wooing Tree right on the outskirts of Cromwell was busy and they are open all week, 10 – 5pm.  They have a full food menu available and a good family set-up.  Excellent Pinots and glorious Rosés.

The visit to the new Misha’s Vineyard tasting room was a highlight.  Their “cellar door” is located on the main road between the Shotover River bridge and the Cromwell township.  Misha was on deck to present her wines and it’s a place you should visit.  $10 for five wines of your choice.  The Limelight Riesling 2014 is delicious!  This is a very hospitable visit. 

At Quartz Reef we did run into the inimitable Rudi Bauer who was supervising the arrival of the first grapes from the vintage, 3 weeks early.  Quartz Reef sparklings are great wines.

The Scott Base tasting room has a great view over Cromwell and Lake Dunstan. They charge $5 or $10 for a range of Alan Scott wines or Moa beer.  Aurum Vineyard is a few kilometres along the Wanaka road and there is no charge for the tasting.  The Lazy Dog past Lowburn was closed as was Archangel at Queensbury (closed Tuesday) but it looked impressive from the gate so we visited again the next day.

The decision to charge or not to charge for Cellar Door tastings seems to be a decision made by the respective winery licence and whether they serve any food or not.  There were some mixed messages from some wineries.

Part two will include a trip over the Crown Range, in snow, and the Winery Cellar Doors around Lake Hayes and in the Gibbston Valley.

Announcing the 2017 NZIWS Trophy Winners

New Zealand’s largest wine competition - the New Zealand International Wine Show – announced the Trophy winners for 2017 at the Awards dinner at Auckland’s Crown Plaza on Saturday 7 October.

The competition this year provided the industry with its first major assessment of the 2017 vintage for our most important variety, Sauvignon Blanc.  The judges awarded 18 golds from 152 entries from wines produced in the 2017 vintage, a terrific result.

New Zealand’s other major export variety, Pinot Noir, was rewarded with 29 Gold Medals – with 13 wines coming from Central Otago, 8 from Martinborough and 7 from Marlborough.

For the 9th time since 2005 a Chardonnay has been crowned Nissan Champion Wine of the Show. Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 was selected as the top wine from the 19 Gold Medal Chardonnays and after voting by all of the senior judges, declared this to be the supreme winner.

Invivo Central Otago 'Michelle’s' Pinot Noir 2016 received the Trophy for Pinot Noir continuing their success for Pinot Noir’s produced in the southern region.

There were significant results in several classes, notably 19 Gold Medals for Pinot Gris and a very positive 13 Gold Medals for Rosé from a staggering 130 entries.

The variety receiving the most Gold Medals was Shiraz/Syrah with 40 wines exciting the judges, this was the most Gold Medals ever awarded to a single class in the history of the competition.

Go to the NZ International Wine Show website for a full list of results.

New Zealand International Wine Show 2017

New Zealand International Wine Show

Celebrating its 13th year, the New Zealand International Wine Show has been the biggest wine competition in this country since its inception. As its name suggests, wines are entered for judging from countries worldwide – in previous years this has included wines from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Israel & the USA.

The wines are judged ‘blind’ by some of New Zealand’s most accomplished winemakers and wine judges, under the guidance of Chief Judge Bob Campbell MW, assisted this year by Assistant Chief Judges Larry McKenna and Peter Cowley - two of New Zealand's greatest winemakers. The outcome of three days of judging is the NZ International Wine Show’s “Champion’s List” of gold medal winners which is published in the Sunday Star Times in October and listed along with other medal winners on their website www.nziws.co.nz. Wines that comprise The Champions List are tasted in a public tasting on Thursday 5 October 2017.

The presentation of Trophies is made at an Awards Dinner in Auckland on Saturday 7th October.

Tickets for both events are available at www.nziws.co.nz

First Glass will presenting many of the gold medal winning wines in their Wednesday tastings after the results are announced. Watch out for some great tastings coming up on our Tastings Diary.”

Decanter Results Announced

Decanter 2017 World Wine Awards

The results are now available from the 14th edition of the Decanter wine competition. What started out as a pretty big wine event has now grown into a logistical monster. This year they received more than 17,000 entries from 42 countries and there were hundreds of judges involved. Bob Campbell MW was the “Regional Chair” for New Zealand wines. The other Kiwi involved was Cameron Douglas MS.

From all these wines there were:

  • 34 Platinum Best in Show
  • 175 Platinum Best in Category
  • 456 Gold Medals
  • 3348 Silver Medals
  • 7044 Bronze Medals.

There are some interesting categories for the top awards such as Best Spanish Fortified, Best Very Old Sherry, Best Value Mature Sherry, Best Mature Sherry, Best Sweet Sherry etc. etc.

Platinum awards for N.Z. wines are:

  • Best N.Z. sparkling – Nautilus Cuvee Brut
  • Best N.Z. Riesling – Saint Clair Block 9 Big John Riesling 2016
  • Best N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc – Wairau River Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016
  • Best Value N.Z. Chardonnay – Te Pa Marlborough Chardonnay 2015
  • Best N.Z. Chardonnay – Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2015
  • Best N.Z. Pinot Noir – Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2015
  • Best Value N.Z. Red Bordeaux Varietals – Koha Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015
  • Best N.Z. Red Bordeaux Varietals – Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2014
  • Best Value N.Z. Red Rhone Varietals – Sileni The Peak Syrah 2014
  • Best N.Z. Red Rhone Varietals – Rod McDonald Wines Quarter Acre Syrah 2015
  • Best N.Z. Sweet Wine – Seifried Sweet Agnes Riesling 2016