General Blog

Gourmet Traveller Wine – New Zealand Winemaker of the Year 2018

By January 25, 2018No Comments
Dom and Nadia Maxwell
The Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine ‘New Zealand Winemaker of the Year’ for 2018 was announced at an awards dinner at Fish Restaurant in Auckland last night. Dom Maxwell of Greystone Wines, in Waipara, North Canterbury was named from a group of 6 finalists, the others being Tony Bish of Tony Bish Wines and Sacred Hill, Peter Cowley of Te Mata, Nick Picone of Villa Maria, Chris Scott of Church Road and Dean Shaw of the Central Otago Wine Company.
There were two other prestigious awards made, these being the New Zealand Wine Leadership Award, going to Michael Brajkovich MW, and the New Zealand Viticulturist of the Year, going to Robin and James Dicey.
Gourmet Traveller Wine has conducted an Australian Winemaker of the Year award for 20 years, and the 2018 New Zealand Award was the inaugural prize, based on the Australian accolade. The judging panel was led by Bob Campbell MW supported by Cameron Douglas MS and myself. The decision-making process was very pleasurable and indeed thought-provoking. I found it fascinating to see the other judges’ thoughts, each of us coming from different angles and experiences. Bob gave us fairly open criteria, to enable a broad base to select candidates from. We all thought any of the final six were worthy of the award, and it came down to a weighting of rankings.
Gourmet Traveller Wine is in my opinion the leading wine-focussed journal in Australasia, with excellent in-depth articles and tasting results, as well as up-to-date coverage of news and new releases. The magazine is owned by  Judy and Stan Sarris, who purchased the business from their long-time friends Peter and Judy Howarth two years ago. Judy is the editor, and her husband Stan is a restaurant consultant.  They operate out of their offices in Surry Hills, Sydney, where they are soon to open a wine bar below. www.gourmettravellerwine.com

Dom Maxwell, Dean Shaw, Peter Cowley, Raymond Chan, Bob Campbell MW
Michael Brajkovich MW, Tony Bish, Nick Picone, Chris Scott and James Dicey
(Left to Right, Photo: Sue Davies)

The Awards Dinner

The New Zealand Winemaker of the Year 2018 awards dinner was held at Fish Restaurant in the Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf in Auckland. The awards and dinner were supported by sponsors Vintec (climate controlled cellaring storage) and Riedel (stemware). Here is the menu and wine list, the latter selected by Bob Campbell, and match by the Fish Restaurant chefs. The food was excellent. I provide a few thoughts on the wines served.

On Arrival
Warm Leigh kahawai flake with preserved lemon mayo and cress
Ruakaka kingfish, lardo de colonnata and gremolata cone
Smoked Waitakere beetroot arancini with sheep’s milk cheese
2016 Mt Difficulty ‘Target Gully’ Central Otago Riesling
Reid & Reid Gin with East Imperial Yuzu Tonic
VDKA6100 Vodka with East Imperial Superior Soda Water

The wine was a gorgeous aperitif with finely concentrated lime and mineral aromas and flavours, with subtle complexing lees notes and textures. This has layers of interest and detail.

First Course

Big Glory Bay salmon, oak smoke, sweetcorn and grilled garlic shoot
2016 Church Road ‘Grand Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay

2012 Kumeu River ‘Mate’s Vineyard Kumeu Chardonnay

Both of these wines were in the classical flinty, mineral reductive style, both with richness, depth of flavour and excellent fruit-complexity balance. The Church Road was a little sweeter and up-front, the Kumeu River a little lighter in colour and slightly more taut. The bottle-age of the Kumeu River saw the fruit intensity match that of the more forward Church Road, to the point they were more similar than different. Both of these were excellent Chardonnays in the ‘burgundian’ style.

Second Course

Flaxbourn lamb, eggplant compressed and blackened, horopito jus
2015 Two Paddocks ‘The Fusilier’ Central Otago Pinot Noir
2015 Villa Maria ‘Single Vineyard – Seddon’ Marlborough Pinot Noir
2016 Greystone Waipara Valley Pinot Noir

What a diverse trio of Pinot Noirs! It would be easy to subjectively pick a favourite. From what I thought was a more objective perspective (in my opinion), all three wines were on a pretty-well equal footing. The Two Paddocks was the most complex and ‘burgundian’ with savoury flavours, distinctive whole bunch notes and plenty of structure. The Villa Maria had purity, finesse and beauty, with wonderful florality along with dark-red fruits. And the Greystone was the richest and fruitiest of the three, somewhat riper and more up-front, and seemingly the most youthful. It will develop complexity with time. I continually changed my preference.

Third Course

Selection of local cheeses, handmade breads, crackers and dried fruit
2014 Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalkers’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah
2013 Te Mata ‘Coleraine’ Hawke’s Bay

The Sacred Hill wine is incredibly rich and plush, with great concentration, depth and balanced, serious structure. The voluptuousness of the fruit makes it very enjoyable wine at this youthful stage. Sensational wine that is sensual and emotionally evocative. The Te Mata is an exceptional wine in breeding and fidelity to the dream of making a Bordeaux-inspired wine that has held true for over three decades. Sheer elegance, finesse and fresh vitality. Some modernists would say there’s a thread of greenness. I say this has intellectual poise and brilliance. Proven ageworthiness, and indeed greatness.



Leave a Reply

Latest wine reviews, news, events and more. 🍷
We respect your privacy.