Close to 500 people clinked wine glasses at the region's ultimate wine celebration last night, the 17th annual Hawke's Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards.

Winemakers, sponsors and industry representatives filled an exquisite marquee set up in the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds' Waikoko Gardens to eat, drink and toast to the best and brightest wines of the region.

The country's oldest regional wine competition was off to a few laughs as 7 Days comedian and The Rock Breakfast Radio co-host Paul Ego popped the cork on the event as MC.

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Te Awa's Single Estate Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 was named this year's Champion Wine of the Show.

Hawke's Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards chief judge Rod Easthope said the supreme award was "extremely difficult" to judge, with decisions boiling down to pure subjectivity.

"Great wines have an amazing juxtaposition of freshness, balance, poise and intensity of flavour and this wine has that in spades.

"Classic Bordeaux style in flavour, Te Awa's Merlot Cab Sav oozes structure and texture with its base notes of cassis, blackberry and plum but its floral/dried herb, spicy lift is what really sets it apart."

Taking out Reserve Champion Wine of the Show was Church Road's McDonald Series Syrah 2015 which proved that, far from mimicking the variety's French origins, Hawke's Bay's Syrah had established its own distinctive stamp.

"The Syrah category is always a real drawcard and one I can emphatically say Hawke's Bay leads in. Church Road's Syrah has balance and power yet the dollop on top of that is its marked black pepper, aniseed and spice. A delicious wine," Mr Easthope said.

Church Road also won the House of Travel Hastings and Havelock North Hawke's Bay Cellar Door of the Year award.

A typically strong arm of Hawke's Bay wine making, the best chardonnay award was won by Clearview Estate for its Endeavour Chardonnay 2015.

The star of the show was Hawke's Bay's 2015 vintage, which won eight of the 18 categories and proved itself every bit as good as the 2013-14 vintages.

Mr Easthope said Hawke's Bay wines were in the spotlight as some of the most distinct and diverse seen anywhere in the world, the region's "biggest success story".

"So much was made of the 13-14 vintages but to have four vintages now 'on the hop' producing excellent wines, people are starting to look to Hawke's Bay as a region producing many different cultivars of world-class pedigree."

Mr Easthope was also excited about the development of red varietals this year.

"The emerging red cultivars has always been a fun class to judge however this is the first year we're seeing Hawke's Bay's Tempranillo, Marzemino and Cabernet Franc hitting their straps.

"In past vintages people have dipped their toes tentatively into those cultivars but now they look to have a real place here."