If you scan the list of gold medals from the industry-run Air New Zealand Wine Awards, judged last month, two producers stand out. Villa Maria scooped 20 of the 97 golds, and its subsidiaries, Vidal and Esk Valley, collected six more. Of the smaller producers, Lawson’s Dry Hills also had a show to remember, waltzing away with four golds.
The spotlight invariably falls on the lowest-priced golds – and one is on sale at $9.95. Pale-pink Lindauer Rosé offers vivacious strawberry and spice flavours, showing some yeasty complexity, and unbeatable value. Another surprise gold medal went to Vicarage Lane Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($13.80), a little-known label aimed mostly at overseas markets.
The best-priced gold-medal-winning sauvignon blancs also include Artisan The Sands Block Marlborough 2012 ($19); Saint Clair Vicar’s Choice Marlborough 2012 ($19); Huntaway Marlborough 2012 ($20); and Sileni Cellar Selection Marlborough 2012 ($20). Other affordable gold-medal whites are Eradus Awatere Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2012 ($19); Tiki Estate Waipara Pinot Gris 2011 ($20); and West Brook Marlborough Riesling 2011 ($20).
Looking for a bargain-priced pinot noir? Of the 21 gold-medal pinot noirs, Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough 2011 ($27) is the cheapest, followed by Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago 2011 ($28); Charcoal Gully Sally’s Pinch Central Otago 2011 ($29); and Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Earnscleugh Vineyard 2010 ($30).
The pinot noir golds all went to just two regions – Marlborough (11) and Otago (10). Martinborough reds didn’t win any golds this year, which raises the question: were they exhibited? Entries in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards climbed steadily from 1165 in 2002 to 1736 in 2006, but have since declined to 1367 in 2012.
Of the country’s 700-plus wine producers, only 222 entered this year’s show. Michael Brajkovich, of Kumeu River, who chaired the judging panels, believes that for small wineries trying to establish themselves, “shows are a very good thing”. His own winery once entered competitions, but “we haven’t seen the need to continue with them”.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Julicher Martinborough Chardonnay 2011
Subtle and finely balanced, with vibrant, citrusy, peachy flavours, fresh acidity and buttery, toasty notes adding complexity. Fine value at $22.90. (4/5)