It was return and big hurrah of the syrah as the varietal regained top honours at the Hawke's Bay A and P Bayleys Wine Awards held last night.
Delayed since last month due to Covid, it was the 21st ceremony dating to the first in 2001, with the Church Road McDonald Series Syrah 2019 named Champion of Show, re-establishing ascendancy after three years in the shadow of Hawke's Bay's finest chardonnays, which had won three years in a row.
All-up, syrahs have won the top gong 10 times, including six in a row from 2005 to 2010. Last night the champion wine also claimed two other trophies, indicating it will undoubtedly garner more recognition both here and internationally.
The ceremony was held at the A and P Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana Exhibition Hall. Society general manager Sally Jackson said the society is "incredibly proud" to bring the wine industry together to celebrate the milestone of the 21st annual event.
"The primary sector is the cornerstone of our region's economy, and the event aims to identify, promote and celebrate excellence in winemaking in the region as well as endorsing the contribution viticulture has to the economic, cultural and social well-being of Hawke's Bay," she said.
A record 343 wines were tasted by a team of 12 judges at the EIT in Taradale in September, with chardonnay the most prolific.
Event manager Isabelle Crawshaw said the vision of original awards committee chairperson Max Morton was clear, and she added: "That was to gather the wine industry across the region and recognise those excelling in their field."
"As a celebration that began in the paddock with only a handful of wines and a group of passionate winemakers, these awards have now grown into a pillar event on the Hawke's Bay calendar," she said.
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Head judge Ant Mackenzie, who has had 25 years in the wine industry around the world, said he was "blown away by the calibre of entries," and reckoned the quality of wine had increased year on year over the last four years.
"A highlight for this year's judging panel was seeing the smaller and more diverse wineries receiving medals," he said. "Over 75 per cent of all entries submitted this year were awarded a medal, and this was a direct result of a perfect season climatically, with crops across Hawke's Bay being grown with a strong concentration of flavours."
"Over the past two years the wine industry has had to adapt their business practices, reflecting the impact of Covid on the industry. It has truly rallied together under extreme circumstances," he said.
The awards included recognition of Kate Radburnd in the Hawke's Bay Wine Growers Hall of Fame, for her "leadership, mentoring, advocacy and ability to empower others in the wine industry across New Zealand."
She had strived to create a pathway for women within the industry and to develop the next generation of winemakers, and had made award-winning wines and developed wine label Radburnd Cellars, the Winegrowers said.