The Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006 has been stripped of a gold medal by New Zealand's biggest wine show after a Weekend Herald inquiry revealed the wine submitted for judging was different from that on shop shelves.
The chief judge of the New Zealand International Wine Show, critic Bob Campbell, made the decision yesterday. "It was a very easy decision because we have got a requirement in our rules that says the entry samples must conform to the wine in the marketplace.
"It has been proven and admitted that this doesn't conform to the majority of wine in the marketplace so therefore we've got no option but to pull the medal and that is exactly what we are doing," he said.
A spokeswoman for Wither Hills chief winemaker and director Brent Marris said last night that he had not been officially notified that he had lost the award and would not comment until he was.
The New Zealand International Wine Show received a sample from the same BR315 batch of the Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc that was sent to Cuisine magazine.
The magazine denied the wine a coveted five-star rating and top-10 placing after judge Michael Cooper blind-tested it against a bottle from the supermarket and preferred the competition sample. Both wines were sent for testing at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, which found they had different levels of alcohol, acidity and sugar and were described by a senior scientist as "completely different wines".
There were 2228 cases of BR315 made out of a total production of more than 100,000 cases - essentially giving consumers a 1 in 50 chance of buying the award-winning wine.
Judging for the New Zealand International Wine Show was held in September, with the awards dinner later that month. The competition's regulations state "the wine supplied must be identical to that made available for sale on the New Zealand market".
Organiser Kingsley Wood initially told the Herald they would not be withdrawing the gold because the wine might have technically complied if it was on the market at the time.
Yesterday, Mr Wood confirmed the decision was made by Mr Campbell "end of story".
Mr Campbell, one of only 250 Masters of Wine in the world, is New Zealand's leading wine educator, an international wine judge and group wine editor of ACP Media magazines.
The silver medal a BR315 sample of the wine won at the Air New Zealand awards is also under scrutiny and is part of continuing investigations by the industry body New Zealand Winegrowers.
The Liquorland Top 100 also awarded the BR315 sample a gold but its organiser, Belinda Jackson, has said she will not be withdrawing the medal because she was satisfied the wine entered in the show was available on the market.
Mr Marris is the chief judge of both the Air New Zealand and Liquorland competitions.
He has defended his wine, saying that while the batches were "technically different" they had a "flavour consistency" and consumers would not be able to taste the difference.