Judging got underway yesterday for the Hawke's Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards - the oldest regional wine competition in New Zealand.

Senior judge Rod Easthope said that, after a bit of a lull, the wine industry was experiencing an upward trend. "We had 410 entries this year, which is our third highest number ever," Mr Easthope said. He said that when he tasted a wine he imagined it being served in a New York restaurant and whether it would sit alongside the best wines in the world. The quality of wine, particularly the 2013-14 vintage, was amazing. "It makes giving out the gold and silver medals very hard."

He said he required plenty of beer during the day to keep his palate cleansed. "Once you're on your 20th cabernet of the day, you definitely need a beer or two."

Chairman of judges Rod McDonald said the team yesterday looked at pinot gris, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, merlot and merlot blends, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet sauvignon blends.

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Today the chardonnay and syrah classes will be judged. He said the team tasted "the effects of two great vintages in a row".

Entries for the awards, supported by Hawke's Bay Today, are accepted from wineries with wine made from 85 per cent Hawke's Bay grapes.

More than 90 per cent of Hawke's Bay wineries, including multinational wine makers, enter the competition.