OPINION: The purists would have you believe that wine shows are about improving standards through competition and example.
Which once was certainly the case. Hence the involvement of the Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Society in one of our oldest and biggest wine competitions and the number of wine shows still run in Australia by the same sort of agricultural-based organisations.
However, time, and something we call consumerism, have conspired to change all this.
These days wine shows, or some of them, are as much about the cost of the wines that earn medals as they are about their quality. They are a response (you guessed it) to the needs of the vast bulk of consumers who spend only what they can afford on wines and they are driven (you guessed it again) by supermarkets and liquor outlets who want those dollars.
A case in point are the New World (as in supermarket) Wine Awards which just celebrated its 10th anniversary with a show in Wellington that attracted an entry of 1008 wines from 162 wineries, 28 of them new to the competition.
That is not a bad response when you consider that entry is limited to wines that retail for a maximum of $25 and must be available in minimum lots of 500 cases.
And here's the reason why: Last year more than 250,000 bottles of the top 50 wines, with a retail value in excess of $3.3 million, were sold in the first six weeks of the results being announced, and the champion white sold out within 10 days.
This does not account for sales of the same wines sold elsewhere, especially in those few areas where supermarkets do not sell wines. It works well for all concerned. Best of all, it is a wine show that observes all the rules. Each wine is judged solely on its merits using the same stringent system of judging as other competitions with many of the same experienced judges from here and at least one this year from overseas.
In other words, a wine that wins a gold medal at the New World Wine Awards should be of the same quality as any other gold medal wine. And since we're on the subject: 56 of the 598 medal-winning wines this year earned gold, which means that all of the wines in the magic Top 50 are wearing gold.
Some random examples among the best buys:
Thornbury's young and punchy 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, $15-$20; Saint Clair's elegant, bready 2011 Premium Chardonnay, $15-$20 ; Mount Brown's lemon-driven 2011 Riesling, $15-$20; and Lil Rippa's 2011 Awatere Pinot Gris, $15-$20.
Reds (most of them Australian)
Taylors' fruit-filled, spicy 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, $20-$25; Earthworks' mouth-filling 2010 Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $20-$25; Wynns' rich and friendly 2010 Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz Merlot, $20-$25; Squawking Magpie's 2011 savoury, floral The Chatterer Syrah from Hawke's Bay, $20-$25; and West Brook's feels-good 2010 Marlborough pinot noir, $20-$25.
And the white, red and sparkling wines that the judges voted best of the best:
Wild Rock 2010 Pania Chardonnay, $20-$25
A typically stonefruited Hawke's Bay chardonnay with a twist of lemon, a splash of lemon and a hint of meal. Made by a subsidiary of Craggy Range and marketed in many countries around the world.
Brancott Estate Sparkling Rose, $20-$25
A popular pink bubbly now made under the Brancott label by Pernod Ricard, now the owner of what was Montana. A charming, fresh strawberried wine.
Mud House 2010 Pinot Noir, $20-$25
A generous, cherried wine with hints of currants and herbs and the silky smooth finish that adds to the pleasure of drinking pinot noir. Grapes were grown in the Bendigo sub-region of Central Otago.
- © Fairfax NZ News