A wine show is a wine show. Right? Not any more.
Now there are shows in which only wines grown and made in a particular way can be entered.
Just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable.
In fact, it would have been almost impossible to attract enough entries of, say, organic or biodynamic wines to make it worthwhile.
But, in fact, a show confined to just these wines from New Zealand and Australia has been running for the past eight years, which coincides roughly with a marked swing on both sides of the Tasman to organic and biodynamic grape growing and wine making.
And this year it was one of these newer kids on the block - Carrick, of Bannockburn in Central Otago - that took the honours. These included not only wine of the show, but best red and best white - three out of four of the major awards.
Though the show involved only 164 wines from 38 vineyards, (seven in New Zealand) it is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. This makes Carrick's performance a great achievement, given the reputation of some of the participants and the wines that they produce.
Which has been one of the reasons for the switch by many from the traditional to the clean, green closer- to-nature and the cosmos systems of viticulture. Among the disciples of both are some of the world's most notable wine producers, including Leflaive, Leroy and Domaine de la Romanee Conti in Burgundy; Chapoutier in the Rhone; Zind- Humbrecht and Weinbach in Alsace; Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon in the US. And in New Zealand, Millton, Seresin, Rippon and Felton Road, among others.
As noted British wine writer Robert Joseph once said: "It looks like a club worth joining."
For Carrick, which took the first step towards organic certification in 2008, the pressing reason was the need to improve the rather sandy soils in which its grapes are grown - "to get better fruit from better soils", is how owner Steve Green puts it.
Carrick achieved full organic certification in 2011 and now also follows many of the biodynamic principals espoused by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s, which include spraying with fermented cow poo and being guided in this and other winegrowing practices by the moon.
Which sounded all a bit whacky, even to Australian wine writer Max Allen before he became, like James Millton of The Millton Vineyard in Gisborne, one of the most influential promoters of organic and particularly biodynamic winegrowing Down Under.
For Allen, now chief judge for the New Zealand and Australia Organic Wine Show, the epiphany came when he noticed the intensity and complexity of flavour in well- made biodynamic wines sent a chill down his spine. No only did they taste better than most "conventional" - even organic - wines. They tasted different.
This year he says there was a marked improvement in the quality of the wines and from a growing number of new organic and biodynamic vineyards. "It was hard to find a bad one."
As for Carrick's Steve Green, who does not normally enter shows but did so on this occasion to benchmark his wines and to support the organic cause, he's delighted, of course, for himself and also for others who have seen or are beginning to see the light.
The award-winning wines:
Carrick 2011 Bannockburn Pinot Noir, about $45
The best red and the wine of show fits perfectly with the established style of this wine. It is succulent, rich and dense with cherries, chocolate, spice (including a shake of cinnamon) in the mix. A satisfying and stylish textural treat, bottled without fining or filtration.
Carrick 2012 Riesling, $24
This is one of three rieslings made by Carrick and is in a medium-style. It means the sweetness makes it good for earlier drinking as well as cellaring. Hand picked and fermented with wild yeasts, it's built around citrus aromas and tastes - grapefruit, lime and lemon. Good buying.
- The Southland Times