Pinots charge to forefront in New World wine awards entries

Chief judge Jim Harré says most winemakers have coped with poor weather

New World Wine Awards chief judge Jim Harré says wine volumes may be down but quality is up.

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The initial test for this year’s wine vintage is underway with a record number of 1400 entries received for the New World Wine Awards.

While the harvest is much smaller due to poor weather over the summer, chief judge Jim Harré says most winemakers have been able to cope.

The 2017 reds won’t be released for another year or two but he says vintage reports he’s seen show the quality has held up.

“In Central Otago, for example, the volumes are down but the quality is spectacular. Other regions such as Nelson haven’t had too many problems,” he says.

“In Marlborough, the Sauvignon Blancs are aromatic and at the cooler end of the spectrum. We won’t be seeing the massive numbers of previous years but they will be elegant.

“As a cool climate producer we are used to dealing with wines from harvests that are not as hot as other years and we are good at dealing with adversity.”

Surge in Chardonnays
Mr Harré says the awards have a record number of Pinot Noir entries and a surge in Chardonnays.

“Recent years have seen a move away from big, buttery Chardonnays but demand is picking up for finely made examples. Chardonnay is a brilliant wine for a wide range of food styles and I can see a trend back in that direction.”

The New World awards are aimed at finding the best supermarket wines with a price limit of $25 a bottle limit and minimum amount of 5000 bottles to ensure availability.

“Prices are still driven by demand, quality and gaining sales. Whether the pricing structure will stand a lift is always the question but I think they will stay where they are but with less available wine in some areas.”

The level of entries shows more expensive varieties are also becoming more affordable.

“Last year we had 150 Pinot Noirs priced under $25 but this year there are 214."

Largest category
These reds make up the largest category of entries at 15%, followed by Sauvignon Blanc at 13%.

The 15th year of the contest has also relaxed the rules for some selected New Zealand wines that retail for more than $25.

Mr Harré says the awards are judged according to international standards, using the “double blind” system where judges only know the variety and year.

“The consumer can trust that the [medal-winning] wine is of very high quality. They may not like it but if it’s an unfamiliar grape variety then it will be a good example of it.”

He is pushing for New Zealand to adopt standardised best show practices modelled on the Australian system as a benchmark for consumers.

“What we want is for the consumer pick up a bottle and know it has been put through a rigorous and formal process – whether it has come from a wine contest or reviewed by a talented wine writer.”  

Judging will take place in Wellington from July 31-August 2.

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