Neil Hodgson's wine column
Two weeks ago, I went to the Royal Easter Wine Show awards dinner at the Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland.
I had heard a few whispers that a couple of trophies were going to be awarded to Nelson wineries, and Sari decided it would be a good dinner for me to attend, so who am I to argue?
As it turned out, the awards were far more than I expected, and the dinner wasn't bad either.
The format of the evening was planned so the trophy-winning wines were announced before each course and served with the food.
The wine and food matching pushed a few boundaries, but each pairing worked pretty well. It isn't often you are served a trophy-winning dessert wine with the starter, but the Montana Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc was perfect with the chicken liver parfait.
Nelson wineries didn't hit the spotlight until later in the evening: Brightwater Vineyards 2009 Lord Rutherford Chardonnay was announced as the champion chardonnay and was served with a selection of cheeses. The beautifully balanced oak and creamy malo characters in the wine were perfect with a wedge of mercer gouda with a fresh fig and a cheese scone.
After the dessert was served, Waimea Estates 2011 Gewurztraminer was awarded the champion export wine trophy, an award that has never been made to Nelson winery before from any show.
Gary and Valley Neale were still buzzing from winning the chardonnay trophy when the same wine was also named the champion wine of the show, another award that has never been won by a Nelson winery before.
Rounding out the night, the third trophy to never have been won by a Nelson winery before also came Nelson's way when Tony Southgate from Brightwater Vineyards was named as the Royal Easter Show Winemaker of the Year.
Just how significant are these awards?
First, Waimea Estates being awarded the champion export trophy for a gewurztraminer reinforces not only the fine reputation the winery has in the international marketplace, but confirms Nelson as a region that can produce outstanding aromatic style wines. This award reflects on the whole region.
For a small boutique producer like Brightwater Vineyards to waltz away with the top trophy in the show was nothing short of an outstanding effort, reflecting the passion and energy owners Gary and Valley have poured into the business for about 20 years.
To produce great chardonnay requires excellence in all facets of the production process.
Viticultural management needs to be meticulous to make sure fruit from the different clones of chardonnay vines reach the winery in perfect condition, so the winemaker can select the fruit and structure characters needed to produce a balanced, flavoursome wine.
The multiple choices about the use of oak barrel fermentation and ageing, the source of the oak, the heaviness of the barrel toasting, how much malolactic fermentation and how long the wine sits on yeast lees are all decisions the winemaker must make at just the right time to ensure the end product is finely balanced.
Chardonnay is a winemaker's wine, and to win the trophy for champion wine of show with a chardonnay is a huge accolade.
Tony Southgate richly deserves the title of Winemaker of the Year for the outstanding Brightwater Vineyards 2009 Lord Rutherford Chardonnay.
I HAVE BEEN DRINKING
There is no wine pick this week, instead I suggest you get in your car and head out to Brightwater. At Brightwater Vineyards you will find a range of highly awarded wines, not just chardonnay and a little further up the road stop in at Kaimira Estate where they are having their annual wine sale. Limited quantities of gems from the cellar dating back to 2007, gold, silver and bronze medal wines will all be heavily discounted for one day only – tomorrow, Saturday March 31.