An Otago pinot noir with "truffle-like" overtones may have stolen the show yet the Bay can still lay claim to the country's best syrah.

Mission Estate Winery scooped the coveted Champion Syrah category at Saturday night's Air New Zealand Wine Awards, with its Mission Reserve Syrah Hawke's Bay 2015.

It was pipped at the post by Lowburn Ferry's Home Block Pinot Noir Central Otago 2014, which claimed the Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show Trophy in front of a 1000-strong audience in a gala dinner at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre.

The Mission Estate was the Bay's best performer, also claiming honours in the Top Exhibition Red Wine category for its Reserve Cabernet Franc.


Mission Estate chief executive Peter Holley said he was "absolutely rapt" with the two wins and believed it was an "affirmation" of the winery's style amid the country's most acclaimed winemakers.

The winery's chief winemaker, Paul Mooney, told Hawke's Bay Today the estate had planted syrah grapes back in 1944 but the "heavy soils" near the winery weren't conducive to great wine. "It's always about fruit supply," he said. "We have two vineyards in Gimblett Gravels which is part of the reason this was a great wine. The gravelly soils give fantastic flavours to the syrah on those sites."

He said winning the exhibition red wine category was "a bonus".

"It also comes down to teamwork. We've got great cellar staff and our viticulturist Steve Wheeler is fantastic. But it's also about the judges. Some years they enjoy your style and some years they don't."

Hawke's Bay grapes claimed a third category when Villa Maria won the Merlot, Cabernet and Blends category with its Reserve Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Hawke's Bay 2014.

Chair of judges and master of wine Michael Brajkovich said the Lowburn Ferry winner was one of the more complex pinot noir wines in this year's competition.

"This wine has lovely ripe wild-cherry aromas with earthy herbal and truffle-like undertones," Mr Brajkovich said. "The palate is full-bodied with a seductively silky texture and is showing the benefit of bottle maturation.

"Pinot noir was undoubtedly the strongest class of wine this year, showing very high quality across a range of styles. All of the gold-medal winning wines are outstanding, but this older example had that 'something special' to attract the judges' attention in the trophy tasting."


As well as the 18 trophies awarded, 39 elite gold medals were announced at the dinner, which was hosted by broadcasters Samantha Hayes and Jesse Mulligan. This year's competition saw more than 1400 wines entered.