New Zealand wines won three trophies and a slew of gold medals at last week's major British-based International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).
Three varieties and a strikingly broad sweep of styles achieved gold.
It was great to see the quality of New Zealand's wines rewarded beyond the sauvignons that used to dominate the country's awards. But in the judging and the results this year, I was struck by how few of these were hitting the high spots they once effortlessly seemed to achieve.
Starting with the positives, I was particularly pleased to see Gold Outstanding medals going to a gewurztraminer and a dessert riesling, styles in which New Zealand is increasingly excelling. Among the golds, beyond the usual suspects, there were several more rieslings, a syrah and a couple of chardonnays - a variety that's been undeservedly overshadowed by the success of our sauvignons - one walking off with the competition's overall Chardonnay Trophy.
Add to these successes the fact that New Zealand also claimed top honours in the pinot noir and sauvignon blanc categories and won a slew of silver medals and it's clear the country put in a strong performance. However, with only one sauvignon blanc other than the trophy winner being awarded gold, there was a feeling among judges that though there were plenty of very good examples, a "wow" factor was missing from most.
Angela Reddin, a fellow judge and chair of a number of New Zealand panels, singled out sauvignon as one of the areas that afforded her some disappointment.
"We expect much from Marlborough, particularly with sauvignon blanc," she noted.
"It's nice to see people giving it some more attention, expanding the range of styles the variety can offer and focusing on their dirt a bit more. The general quality is good to very good. But is it as exciting as it used to be?"
It's a good question. I feel the top New Zealand sauvignons are scaling new heights, but there's a need for continual improvement in the mainstream to keep the world's wine drinkers engaged with our flagship grape - especially as quality and competition grows from New World rivals such as Chile and South Africa, who've started to knock New Zealand off top spots at international competitions.
It's not impossible, as illustrated by the under-$20 Marlborough sauvignon that beat all contenders to secure the Sauvignon Blanc Trophy.
Here are my thoughts on that particular wine and the other high achievers at this year's IWSC.
The Crossings Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - $19.99
This intense, textural sauvignon is an impressive example of a wine from our flagship grape that combines elegant notes of nectarine and passionfruit with those of zesty lime and flint.
Find it at New World.
POLE POSITION PINOT
Ceres Composition Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 - $38
Brothers Matt and James Dicey are already behind some of Central Otago's most impressive pinot noir in their work as winemaker and viticulturalist at Mt Difficulty Wines. This powerful, seriously structured pinot, with its rich, spicy black plum and kirsch fruit, is the product of their personal label, Ceres, and won the IWSC's Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noir Trophy.
Available from Bacchus Cellars, Glengarry, Point Wines, Primo Vino, Cambridge Fine Wines.
Jules Taylor Wines Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (on-premise blend) - $24.99
Fresh and refined, this largely on-premise version of Jules Taylor's chardonnay was awarded the Mission Hill Chardonnay Trophy. Pure notes of white peach are joined by hints of fennel and nut, supported by a bright line of mineral and citrus.
For stockists ph (03) 578 9831.
Seifried Winemakers Collection 'Sweet Agnes' Nelson Riesling 2013 (375ml) - $32
A superlative sticky that's already notched up two major wins in wine shows here and overseas before its IWSC win, exhibiting intense notes of apricots, ginger and orange zest and a considerable sweetness deftly balanced by a clean crisp finish.
From Seifried Cellar door, seifried.co.nz.
Waimea Nelson Gewurztraminer 2011 - $24
A beguilingly aromatic gewurz that fuses rich notes of Turkish delight, musk, honey and exotic spice in its viscous palate with a fresh grapefruit zest edge.
Available at First Glass Wines, Glengarry's, Nosh, Scenic Cellars.
Misha's Vineyard Verismo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 - $62.95
A stylish pinot with silky and fresh red cherry fruit infused with notes of dried herb and liquorice over subtle savoury notes and a vibrant undercurrent of mineral.
From Fine Wine Delivery Company, Glengarry, mishasvineyard.com.
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