A Marlborough chardonnay has won the top prize at this year's Air New Zealand Wine Awards which attracted more than 1300 entries.

The Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016 won the Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show trophy, as well as the Rabobank Champion Chardonnay trophy, at an Art Deco inspired awards dinner in Napier last night.

Chair of judges Warren Gibson said the Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016 was a very classy example of the chardonnay in this year's competition.

"It has a beautiful balance of components with a rich long finish," said Gibson.

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"It's packed with flavour but still maintains a remarkable lightness on its feet."

The producer of the top chardonnay, Isabel Estate Vineyard, is a pioneering winery in Marlborough and planted their first vineyards in 1980.

The vineyard has some of the oldest chardonnay vines in the region. Chief winemaker Jeremy McKenzie said Isabel Estate Vineyard's philosophy on working the land was simple.

"Respect the soil where the grapes grow and allow the unique characters of each vineyard and variety to be expressed in the final wine."

The second highest accolade of the evening, the O-I New Zealand Reserve Wine of the Show trophy, went to the Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016. The pinot noir, made by chief winemaker Stu Marfell of Foley Family Wines, also won the JF Hillebrand New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir trophy.

Hundreds of guests were at the awards on Saturday night. Photo / Grant Bradley
Hundreds of guests were at the awards on Saturday night. Photo / Grant Bradley

"As with many of the best wines in this class there is perfume and length with elegant tannins and a lingering and powerful finish," said Gibson.

Air New Zealand chief operating officer Bruce Parton said the airline was proud to have sponsored the New Zealand wine industry's official awards for 31 years.

"Through our partnership with New Zealand Winegrowers we are committed to championing the success of the industry right around the world, both through these awards as well as by working together to help grow wine tourism."

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Parton said Air New Zealand serves about eight million glasses of wine a year to its cutomers.

Seventeen trophies were announced at the dinner, which was emceed by Jack Tame and Renee Wright. This year's competition saw 1320 wines entered.

New Zealand Winegrowers represents the country's 1500 grape growers and winemakers and has owned and organised the competition for over 40 years.

Four wine industry stalwarts were honoured for their outstanding service to the New Zealand wine industry.

More than 1300 wines were entered in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Photo / NZPA
More than 1300 wines were entered in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Photo / NZPA

Joe Babich, Geoff Thorpe, Bill Spence and Lorraine Rudelj have been made Fellows of NZ Winegrowers, an accolade that recognises dedication and influence in New Zealand's flourishing wine industry.

NZ Winegrowers chair Steve Green said the four fellows have each made outstanding individual contributions to the development and success of the New Zealand wine industry. Wine is now New Zealand's fifth largest export, valued at over $1.6 billion each year.

"Joe's contribution has been in the evolution of winemaking styles and development of wine making standards. Geoff has helped drive improved nursery standards while Bill has made major contributions to viticulture and export growth. Lorraine has given 37 years of unparalleled service to industry organisations, including New Zealand Winegrowers.''

Trophy Winners

Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show

Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016

O-I New Zealand Reserve Wine of the Show

Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016

JF Hillebrand New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir

Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016

Label and Litho Limited Champion Sauvignon Blanc

Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley Marlborough 2017

Rabobank Champion Chardonnay

Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016

Dish Magazine Champion Open Red Wine

Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016

Bayleys Real Estate Champion Merlot, Cabernet and Blends

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Merlot Hawke's Bay 2016

Fruitfed Supplies Champion Syrah

Coopers Creek Reserve Syrah Hawke's Bay 2016

Guala Closures New Zealand Champion Pinot Gris

Saddleback Pinot Gris Central Otago 2017

New World Champion Open White Wine

Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley Marlborough 2017

New Zealand Winegrowers Champion Sweet Wine

Forrest Botrytised Riesling Marlborough 2016

Plant & Food Research Champion Riesling

Mount Riley Riesling Marlborough 2017

Quay Connect Champion Other White Styles

Nautilus Albariño Marlborough 2017

Riedel New Zealand Champion Gewürztraminer

Lawson's Dry Hills Gewürztraminer Marlborough 2016

WineWorks Champion Sparkling Wine

Aotea by the Seifried Family Méthode Traditionnelle Nelson NV

New Zealand Winegrowers Champion Exhibition White or Sparkling Wine

Isabel Wild Barrique Chardonnay Marlborough 2016

New Holland Agriculture Champion Exhibition Red Wine

Falcon Ridge Estate Syrah Nelson 2016