Central Otago pinot noir takes top NZ wine awards

CHE BAKER
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012
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Grasshopper Rock co-owner Phil Handford, vineyard manager Mike Moffitt and winemaker Peter Bartle accept the 2012 Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show trophy in Wellington.

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A Central Otago pinot noir was given the top honour at the 2012 Air New Zealand Wine Awards in Wellington on Saturday after it was named the overall winning wine.

The Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Earnscleugh Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 was awarded the Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show Trophy and also won the Champion Pinot Noir Trophy.

The awards, organised by New Zealand Winegrowers, are the country's most prestigious wine competition and are regarded as the official competition of the New Zealand wine industry.

Grasshopper Rock co-owner Phil Handford, of Hamilton, said the team had celebrated the win on Saturday which had been the highlight for the wine producers so far. It was the first time Grasshopper Rock won an award after entering the competition four times.

The winery produced its first vintage in 2006 after planting vines in 2003.

The win was not only great for Central Otago wines but it put a spotlight on Alexandra-produced wines, which were often overlooked, Mr Handford said.

Alexandra wines were proving to produce an "elegant style" of pinot noir which matched well with food, he said.

"It looks like they will age well because of the balance in acid and tannins," he said.

Master of Wine and awards chairman of judges Michael Brajkovich said Grasshopper Rock's wine stood out for "its great depth of cherry fruit aroma, palate richness and multi-layered complexity".

This year the event attracted 1367 entries in 17 different classes. A total of 19 trophies were awarded, 97 gold medals, 183 silver medals and 364 bronze medals, bringing the total number of medals handed out to 644.

Central Otago wines picked up four trophies, the two by Grasshopper Rock, and the Plant and Food Research Champion Riesling award going to Aspiring Flats Bendigo Central Otago Riesling 2012. The Fairfax Media Champion Open Red Wine went to Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011.

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- The Southland Times

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