Love it or hate it, chardonnay is pushing its way to popularity - if this year's New World Wine Awards are anything to go by.
For the first time in the Awards' 17-year history, there are more samples of the divisive drink in the competition than sauvignon blanc.
Chardonnay makes up 189 of the 1415 wines being judged over three days in Wellington's Westpac Stadium, chair of judges Jim Harré said.
"Chardonnay has become more acceptable in terms of the marketplace ... part of it is because chardonnay has changed a little bit as all wines do."
He said there was about a 20 per cent increase in the number of chardonnays submitted compared to last year.
Chardonnay aside, senior judge Simon Nunns thinks people should start getting excited about the emerging varieties, which include types of wine people may never have heard of before.
Of what is probably 5-10,000 types of wine around the world, New Zealand only has about 60 varieties, he said.
This was down to our distance from other countries and tight border security - "we can't bring new varieties in any time we want them".
No new varieties have been imported to New Zealand for about a decade, he said.
Albariño is one of the wines put through its paces in the competition this week, and Nunns was the first person to make the wine in New Zealand in 2011.
"It's not huge, it's not going to take over the world, but it is growing, it is interesting, and it works.
"The wines have this beautiful stone fruit and floral purity, so when you smell them and taste them it reminds you of sunshine, sand, seafood, barbecues. It reminds you of being on holiday in summer."
Other lesser-known varieties include arneis, monastrell, petite sirah, and sangiovese, all of which are being sampled at the awards this week.
Nunns encouraged people to venture further than traditional sauvignon blancs or pinot noirs and go for a type they had never tried before.
"Don't be scared .... there is real worth and excitement in pushing the boundaries out."
Entries to the New World Wine Awards must retail for $25 or less, and there must be at least 4000 bottles, or 2000 for emerging varieties, available for sale.
Wine by the mile
• The stewarding team will place more than 5600 bottles in their correct positions and pour nearly 12,000 glasses of wine.
• Each of the 2800 glasses will be washed at least five times.
• Stewards will walk about 20km each day as they take wine glasses to and from the judging room.
• 177 wineries are joining in the competition this year.
• 26 pallets, or two trucks, of wine, glasses and equipment will be shipped in to make it all possible.
• Each judge will taste about 120 wines each day.