2020 New Zealand Winemaker of the year and Wānaka resident Jen Parr was one of three judges to sample over 100 Central Otago and Canterbury wines yesterday for this year’s New World Wine Awards.
The annual event, usually held in Wellington, has taken on a different format this year in response to Covid-19, splitting into a series of regional judging events for the first time in its 18-year history. It is the first national wine competition to taste wines from this season.
More than 1,200 wines are being judged over 10 days of tasting around the country’s key wine regions. Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago will each be the judging hub for wines grown and made in the surrounding areas, while Auckland will hold the judging for local as well as international, sparkling and emerging wines.
Consulting winemaker Olly Masters, Nadine Cross from Peregrine Wines and Parr - Winemaker at Valli Vineyards since 2015 - tested Central Otago and Canterbury entries by grape variety, judging each wine on colour, taste and smell, in Cromwell yesterday.
It was an “aromatics-focused day” according to Parr, with Pinot Noir making up half of the field accompanied by Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvingon Blanc. Parr said the general quality of wines was great, with a high number of medals awarded to wines showing “complexity as well as drinkability.”
There were a number of “complex, age-worthy wines” within the Pinot Noir category and the price range - all entries to the New World Wine Awards must retail for $25 or less, and there must be at least 4,000 bottles (or 2,000 for emerging varietals) available for sale.
The 2020 vintage has been hailed as one of the country’s most memorable - in part due to the excellent weather conditions during the growing season, but mainly because of the national lockdown during which this year’s grape-picking took place. But Parr said that although people this year will be remembered as “the Covid harvest,” she would never think of the wines as “Covid wines,” defined by the pandemic they were produced in.
“Once we knew what to do, it was quite a refreshing harvest,” she recalled. “Every day was like Sunday because the gates were closed. There were no distractions and we had time to think about what we were doing.”
She added that it had been a “privilege” to create something “meaningful” and “successful” during such a difficult time - “something beyond the pandemic.”
Chair of Judges Jim Harré echoed her sentiments when he said: “New Zealand’s wine industry is an incredibly important part of our economy, and like so many sectors, it has been working through a difficult period with many unknowns. It is encouraging to see such a significant number of local wineries, as well as many of our regular entrants from Australia and beyond, put their wines forward.”
The top ranked silver and all gold scoring wines will now be reviewed by a second panel of judges in Auckland, who will rank the gold medal wines to determine the Top 50 and award Champion titles. The full results will be announced later this year.
View edition 984 of the Wānaka Sun here.