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Vintages on show at the New World Wine Awards

The winners will be announced in October. Supplied photo.

Wine drinkers have lots to look forward to as wine show season gets underway and wines from some of New Zealand’s latest and greatest vintages are put to the taste test.

The New World Wine Awards judging started this week in Marlborough, with an independent panel of experts spending three full days pouring over more than 1100 wine entries.

After swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting, their scores will whittle the field down to the best of the best: the Top 50 wines that will be available for $25 or less in New World supermarkets nationwide.

The majority of the entries will be wines that were harvested and made in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – each a year hailed for its unique combination of ideal growing conditions and grape quality.

Co-chair of judges Jen Parr says it is shaping up to be a very good year for wine-lovers looking for a new favourite, with the Top 50 sure to deliver a delicious range of ‘top drops’ to explore.

“Each of these vintages was a standout in its own right, and they are combining to make this year’s field of entries a particularly exciting one to taste our way through,” says Parr.

As one of the first wine competitions following New Zealand’s late summer harvest, the panel will be among the first to judge and score a raft of new vintage wines. This will include more than 170 Sauvignon Blanc from the 2021 vintage, as well as Pinot Gris, Riesling and Rosé wines.

“Winegrowers have described 2021 as ‘exceptional’ and ‘superb’, and we can’t wait to see what the new vintage entries deliver with these varieties that are so well known for their freshness and vibrancy.”

Meanwhile, the red wine classes promise a strong contingent of entries from New Zealand’s 2019 and 2020 vintages, including hundreds of local Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, and other blended wines.

“What has stood out to the judging panel over recent years is the constantly increasing quality of the entries we are seeing. Rosé and Sparkling are particularly good examples, where we’ve seen a big surge in entries, as these wines rocket up in popularity, alongside a steady improvement in quality.”

Zero per cent alcohol wines make awards debut

Another big area for growth is the ‘no and low’ alcohol category.

In what is likely a first for wine shows in New Zealand, and perhaps globally, the New World Wine Awards has this year welcomed its first ‘zero alcohol’ entries via new classes specifically for wines containing less than 0.5 per cent alcohol.

Co-Chair Sam Kim says: “The zero alcohol category is a relatively new and developing one in the wine industry.

“We felt it was important to give these wines some additional attention in the hope that we can help consumers find wine options that will best suit their needs.”

The independent judging panel is made up of experts from across the wine industry, including respected winemakers, wine scientists, and industry professionals.

“These awards continue to attract and welcome back some of the most accomplished wine professionals – and palates – in the country. They know how to recognise excellence in the glass, and all really enjoy the process of finding top drops for wine lovers,” says Kim.

For all entries, the panel will evaluate each wine on colour, taste and smell, making collective scoring decisions according to the internationally recognised 100-point system to award Gold (95-100 points), Silver (90-94) and Bronze medals (85-89).

To earn Gold a wine will have been tasted and graded at least 19 times by 11 different judges, and it will be tasted again to be ranked in, or out, of the ‘New World Wine Awards Top 50’. The best of the Top 50 will then be tasted once again by the entire judging panel to determine the Champions of each main varietal, and an overall Champion Red and Champion White.

The full results will be announced in October.

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