Hawke's Bay vineyards have picked up eight gold medals at this year's annually highly anticipated New World Wine Awards Top 50 — with Villa Maria's Bay vineyard also featuring in the top 10 Champion Wines list.
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Villa Maria took out the Champion Pinot Gris section with its Private Bin East Coast 2019 — a combination of vineyards in the Bay, Gisborne, Marlborough and Waipara.
The judges noted the fruit had clearly been in perfect condition and with "premier league" winemaking a spectacular wine had been produced — and at a price which would not break the bank.
The awards are centred on wines which are under $25, with more than half the winners retailing for less than $15, and have accordingly become a firm favourite with wine buyers seeking fine wines at a fine price.
As well as a slice of the champion's pie Villa Maria also picked up a gold medal in the Shiraz and Syrah category for their Cellar Selection Hawke's Bay Syrah 2017.
The judges said its finish underlined how New Zealand syrah had gone from once being pretty well unknown outside of the country to winning major awards around the world.
Mission Estate scored a gold in the Red Blends category with their Mission Estate Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, while neighbouring Church Road grabbed a gold medal for their Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2017 in that category.
Vidal Estate also stepped up to the mark in the chardonnay section, taking a gold for their Vidal Estate Chardonnay 2018.
In the Single Varietal Reds category the Summerhouse Hawke's Bay Merlot 2016 came up with a gold medal for what is a new varietal release from the vineyard.
This year's awards strongly reflected the rise and rise of rosé.
"This was a phenomenal year for rosé and one that broke every record in our book," chair of judges Jim Harre said.
"Not only did we receive more rosé entries than ever before, with 110 wines from all over the world, the quality was exceptional, earning the most medals for rosé in the awards' history."
Hawke's Bay got in on the popular pink act with Falconhead Rose 2019, taking gold, and the Bay fruit-sourced Hunting Lodge Expressions Delicate Rosé 2019 also won the top medal.
The judges described both as "delicate and fragrant" and both came within the $15 to $20 range.
Harre said the blind-tasting judging process had been "robust" with wines earning a gold medal being tasted and marked at least 19 times by 11 judges, with the 10 champion wines being tasted up to 36 times.
More than 1000 wines from all over the world were entered in this year's awards and were judged over three days.
The top 50 winning wines will be on the shelves of New World stores from Monday, October 7.
While more in tune with the world of fragrant ales I was very keen to take a taste of three of the Hawke's Bay gold medal winners, which are all available for under $15.
Mission Estate Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2018: This is a richly red drop, and the aroma you pick up before taking a sip is remarkable. It is put together by winemaker Paul Mooney using oak barrels, and you do get that.
It is smooth and the flavours within it all take a turn upon the tastebuds.
You kind of sense blackberries and blackcurrant threads in there.
Church Road Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2017: I have sipped at a few chardonnays through time, as it always seems to be an easily approachable wine.
Church Road has gathered up a string of awards for this variety over the years, and this adds to the list nicely.
Easy on the palate, with a fresh and citrus fruit sensation to it, as well as an oaky touch.
Cooled appropriately, it is perfect for a warm Bay day.
Falconhead Rosé 2019: Apparently, two falcons have been long-time guardians of the River View vineyard from which this delightful and fresh rosé emerges, and they are clearly doing a great job.
It is indeed fresh and friendly on the tastebuds, with a slightly sweetened fruit aroma and taste.
Again, another great summer companion for a light outdoor lunch or just to relax with in the company of an equally tasty book maybe.