The New Zealand wine industry has been forced to "sit up and take notice" of Northland after a Kerikeri-made chardonnay won the top award in the country's biggest wine competition.
Marsden Estate's Black Rocks Chardonnay beat 2130 entries from 12 countries to be named champion wine of the show at the recent New Zealand International Wine Show.
It is only the latest of many honours for winemaker Rod MacIvor's Black Rocks Chardonnay, cementing its reputation as Northland's top drop.
Northland Wine Growers Association chairman Peter Jones said the win meant the region was finally being taken seriously.
"Northland has for some time been making really, really good wines, but hasn't had the recognition it deserves from other districts, wine writers and consumers. This has really made the industry professionals sit up and take notice of the quality of wines we are producing," Mr Jones said.
Mr MacIvor said it was the second time his Black Rocks Chardonnay had been judged best of its variety and best wine overall in a show. It had collected about 20 gold medals since the first batch was made in 1996.
"Chardonnay does really well in Northland. It just seems to suit the region. We've also been doing it for a while so we've got quite an understanding of the balance between the vineyard and the wine making. Our recipe is pretty much perfected now," he said.
It had taken four years before Black Rocks Chardonnay won its first gold but it had been "pretty consistent" since then.
One of the early criticisms of Northland's wine industry was inconsistency caused by the fickle climate. Northland was still tiny as a wine region - it produces just 0.5 per cent of New Zealand's total - but its winemakers had cracked the consistency problem and were now being taken seriously.
"The first time we won a trophy people thought it was luck, or we'd snuck through somehow."
Mr McIvor was especially pleased to win with his 2013 vintage because it had been an outstanding season right across the country, so he was up against "the best of the best".
Marsden Estate had just 4ha of grapes at Wiroa Rd and produced only 400 cases of Black Rocks Chardonnay a year. The current vintage would sell out in three to four weeks' time.
"We want to make better quality wine, rather than more of it."
Mr MacIvor said three small regions - Northland, Nelson and Waikato - did well at this year's awards. The emergence of new regions made the country's wine industry as a whole stronger, he said.
Mr MacIvor is also the winemaker at the The Landing on the Purerua Peninsula, which won a silver medal for its chardonnay and is expanding from its current 2ha to 10ha.
The NZ International Wine Show was held in Auckland on September 8-10 with winners announced on Saturday. To win the chardonnay trophy Marsden Estate had to beat 27 other gold medal chardonnays. To win the wine of the show title it had to beat all other trophy winners.
Wine of show, chardonnay trophy: Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay 2013.
Gold: Marsden Estate Black Rocks Chardonnay 2013, Te Whai Bay Chardonnay 2013.
Silver: The Landing Chardonnay 2013, Ake Ake Chambourcin 2013.
Bronze: Ake Ake Chardonnay 2013, Lochiel Estate Chardonnay 2013, Marsden Estate Pinot Gris 2013, Ake Ake Pinot Grigio 2014, Millars Vineyard Viognier 2013, Millars Vineyard Gewurztraminer 2013, Omata Estate Reserve Syrah 2013, Waitapu Estate Intrepid Syrah Tempranillo 2013, Waitapu Estate Reef View Cabernet Franc Syrah 2012, Ake Ake Pinotage 2013, Marsden Estate Tempranillo 2013, Marsden Estate Port, Byrne Northland Syrah 2013.
In the NZ-only Bragato Wine Competition in August, Marsden Estate won silver for its Pinot Gris 2013 and Kainui Rd won bronze for its Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and Tempranillo 2013.