Wine snobs had better watch out – cheap, mass-market wines can still be among the best.
Air New Zealand announced the winners of its wine award gold medals yesterday, and one went to Lindauer Rose, which often retails at $8.99.
Other popular "supermarket" wines to win gold included Mud House, Wither Hills, Yealands Estate and St Clair Vicar’s Choice for their Marlborough sauvignon blancs.
“There are good examples at every price,” chairman of judges Michael Brajkovich says.
Sir George Fistonich, who recently celebrated 50 years of winemaking, was a major winner, with Villa Maria and Vidal labels winning 20 and four gold medals, respectively, out of the 97 golds awarded.
Sir George also won two golds for Esk Valley, which he said was an extraordinary result.
"We have had very strong results before, but never more than 20 golds. We have covered nearly every variety. It's a nice finish off to the 50th anniversary."
Mr Brajkovich, who is winemaker at the family-owned Kumeu River Winery, says Lindauer Rose won the sparkling wine category gold because it is a “good wine”.
“It’s the ripe fruit character, strawberries and cherries. It comes from pinot noir.
"It’s the richness that gets on the palette, the nuttiness and texture that comes from the bottle fermentation. It’s not expensive but it does the trick,” he says.
New Zealand Winemakers spokeswoman Sarah Thornton says Lindauer is a “well-respected brand”.
“Obviously, they [Lion] are producing high quality regardless of price. It’s a high-quality wine.”
Lion spokeswoman Liz Read says the award shows popular and good value can go together and Air New Zealand has given “a fantastic endorsement for a fantastic sparkling”.
“The Lindauer collection of sparklings continues to be massively popular with consumers and we’re delighted of this prestigious recognition. We would expect it to have a positive effect on already strong sales.”
For the fifth year running, pinot noir produced the most golds – 21 – followed by sauvignon blanc (17) and chardonnay (15).
Regionally, Marlborough produced 46 golds, Hawke's Bay 19 golds and Central Otago 17.
All 17 gold-winning sauvignon blancs were from Marlborough.
Mr Brajkovich says 2012 was an odd vintage. "We did have a summer but it came late and the 2012 sauvignon blancs turned out really good with ripe tropical fruits and pungent characteristics.
"Sauvignon blanc often needs a cooler vintage to give those zesty characteristics to make them refreshing,”
The winemaker says Sir George Fistonich and his wines have “done well across the board, particularly in chardonnay”.
“These include chardonnays from all four regions: Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough. He has made quite an impact with chardonnay and in identifying high-quality single vineyards with a clever use of barrel fermentation.”
He says New Zealand is producing good pinot noir and riesling, and the latter should rise in price once people realise how good it is.
However, despite the Lindauer gold, the country must do better with bubbles.
“Our cool climate is well adapted to do good things here, but we need to do better. Australia is beating us.”
Air New Zealand will announce its trophy winners next week.
The full list of winners is at http://www.airnzwineawards.com/default,1245,press-releases.sm