The prowess of Hawke's Bay winemakers was celebrated at last night's official launch for the 2016 Hawke's Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards.

Award sponsors and industry representatives gathered at Trinity Hill to toast to the success of the region's wines.

With a range of wines from previous awards available to sample, guests were invited to broaden their pallette and anticipate this year's awards.

In its 16th year the event is said to have grown from modest beginnings to become one of the most significant celebrations of the region's winemaking talent.

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Last night, sponsors spoke of how pleased they were to be involved in the event, which promotes and celebrates excellence in wine-making and endorses "the viticultural contribution to the region's economic, cultural and social wellbeing".

Entries open July 1, and the organising committee is hopeful of tipping last year's numbers of more than 400 wines from 48 wineries.

Trinity Hill chief winemaker Warren Gibson, the newly appointed chairman of judges, said he was pleased to be involved with continuing the success of the awards, having been one of the original judges in 2001.

He would attempt to maintain the show's high standards, and as chairman had encouraged the committee to let him make some small, positive changes for this year's awards.

Changes include a new class which rewards wines of provenance, by recognising wines which reflect their region, lineage and longevity, with three wines of the same label spanning a minimum of 10 years of age being judged.

This will replace what was known as the Museum class, and will be given to the label, not a particular vintage.

Another change is the internal scoring system which previously marked out of a possible 20 points, however to align with international markets the awards will become the country's first show to use rankings out of 100 points, with 95 or more points equivalent to a gold medal.

Judges will include a range of the country's wine experts and commentators, with local judges to provide a regional perspective.

The awards dinner will be held on October 18 in Waikoko Gardens, Hawke's Bay Showgrounds. It will be hosted by the Hawke's Bay A&P Society.

Tickets will be on sale from July 1. For more information, phone Hillary Riches on
027 258 8784.