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New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards 2018

By July 5, 2018No Comments
Following the announcement earlier this year of the withdrawal of the very long-standing Air New Zealand sponsorship from the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, many wine industry personnel and enthusiasts have been wondering what would happen to this country’s ‘national wine competition’. The competition has long-served as a channel for New Zealand wine producers to have their wines judged alongside their peers by competent local judges as well as with inputs from overseas critics who are important for exports. The results have also been an authoritative guide for consumers as to some of this country’s best wines. It is considered the premier wine show in New Zealand.
Today, New Zealand Winegrowers have announced the ‘New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards’ as the replacement for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. It also replaces the Bragato Wine Awards, but will “combine the best components of the previous competitions”. The new awards will champion New Zealand wine excellence (as did the Air New Zealand Wine Awards) while simultaneously rewarding the grape grower and their single vineyard wines (the core of the Bragato Wine Awards) “on a larger scale”.
The new competition is set to take place in the first week of October, and will have last year’s Air New Zealand Wine Awards Chair, Warren Gibson of Hawke’s Bay as Chair of Judges, supported by Ben Glover of Marlborough as Deputy Chair. These two are among the most respected wine judges in the country, and no doubt they will assemble a very good team around them. Entries for the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards open on 1 August, and the winners will be celebrated on Saturday 3 November in Wellington.

Combining the Two Shows – A Good Idea?

From my perspective, it will be an interesting challenge for New Zealand Winegrowers to combine the two shows. Having judged at both competitions, I have always felt that the Air New Zealand Wine Awards was about overall excellence. However, Bragato sought out excellence in grapegrowing and site expression. These to me are two different objectives. In seeking overall excellence, the factors of vineyard source and expression are quite secondary to the judging process. For Bragato, in judging, I and no doubt many of the other judges were seeking individuality of character. I’ve always thought, along with others, that the Bragato Wine Awards was the vehicle to ultimately define ‘terroir’ in New Zealand.

I’m certain the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards will try to take both approaches to judging into consideration. I suspect it will be a relatively complex process which may take a broader mind-set from the judges, some different approaches to assessing the wines, as well as the logistical and administrative work behind it. This is the first competition in this new format, so it will be a work in progress.
From a wider perspective, I believe that the formats of what were the Air New Zealand Wine Awards and the Bragato Wine Awards should be kept separate. In fact, it was an opportunity of taking the two styles and objectives of judging to wider and different paths.
One of the criticisms of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards by many of the judges was that there were too many ‘ordinary’ wines to process and judge. This took time and resource. There had been calls to make this judging at a higher level – which is where the New Zealand Wine of the Year could have gone. With the Bragato Wine Awards, I could envisage an assessment process aimed at identifying vineyard character and rewarding consistency and complexity. Hopefully these are thoughts for the wine show organisers to ponder for the future.


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