Hawke's Bay has underlined its prestige and power in creating top-class, full-bodied, red wines.
Two wineries scooped up three regional trophies in the build-up to the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards on Saturday.
The Villa Maria Reserve range took out two of the regional trophies and Church Road Winery the third, to the delight of the Hawke's Bay-based awards chairman Warren Gibson, who said he was pleased to see "a very strong link" between region, variety and style in the trophy winners of this year's awards.
"It seems to me that there is a definite strengthening in the expression of sense of place, strongly linked with region, grape variety and wine style," he said.
"This cements to me that we have a positively evolving grape-growing and wine making industry and shows the increased maturity of our industry in general."
Villa Maria took the regional Champion Merlot, Cabernet and Blends trophy with its Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay 2016 and the Champion Syrah with its Reserve Syrah Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay 2016.
Church Road Winery picked up the Champion Other Red Styles Trophy with its Church Road One Malbec Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay 2016.
There was an extra reason for Villa Maria to celebrate after they took the Best Wine Hawke's Bay Trophy with the reserve syrah.
They will now take their place in the pursuit of national honours at the big awards event being staged in Wellington where eight major national titles will be up for grabs.
The new awards effectively take the place of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards and the Bragato Wine Awards — two of the industry's major wine competitions.
It focuses on rewarding the grape grower and their single vineyard wines (a core component of the Bragato Wine Awards) as well as championing New Zealand wine excellence on a larger scale, which was the key objective of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.
"It is more than an amalgamation of the previous two," Gibson said.
"It is the development of a new, fresh and exciting format."
He said the focus was strongly towards celebrating the entire New Zealand wine industry "with a particular focus on vineyard excellence and regionality".