Wine editor Jo Burzynska has been working for months to narrow down her list of the year's best wines, with the results of the annual Viva Top 50 in this week's issue. How does the process work? We asked our resident wine expert to explain how it all comes together
The selection process
I tasted literally hundreds of wines, mostly blind, with the final line-up selected on quality, character and diversity. In all but the top 10, how they stacked up in terms of value for money across all price brackets was also taken into consideration.
What makes a good wine?
Personality! Most wines are now well made, so the ones with the wow factor are those with distinctive character, which is most usually derived from the place from which their grapes were grown.
What I'm looking for
As with the criteria for selecting the wines for the top 50, I'm impressed with wines that are distinctive. These are true expressions of the land from which hey come, the soil and season in which they were grown and the spirit of the people that guided them from grape to glass. Rather than looking for individual qualities that stand out, I like wines whose characters dovetail seamlessly together, as balance is another important feature of a good wine.
Like a parent with their children, I appreciate my favourite wines equally for their individual characters and couldn't choose one over all others. What I can say is that I am a big fan of riesling, from New Zealand and across the globe. Even after a long, gruelling tasting, I find myself gravitating to a refreshing glass of this great variety.
When it comes to taking wine to dinner parties, a safe bet would be a nice bottle of dry riesling, which is incredibly compatible with a wide variety of dishes and could be enjoyed as an aperitif.
The ultimate guide
The Viva Top 50 also provides a snapshot of some of the exciting things happening in the wines available in New Zealand today: from the best of our popular homegrown varieties to lesser-known styles and interesting examples from overseas. It's a great time to be a wine drinker in New Zealand as each year there are more interesting wines coming on to the market. This choice can sometimes feel overwhelming, but I hope the Viva Top 50 will act as a useful guide to some of the best wines out there and encourage readers to try something new.
* Look for the results in this week's issue of Viva, in Wednesday's Herald.