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DWWA 2014: New Zealand insights

Hear from our New Zealand Regional Chair Bob Campbell MW on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Is it my imagination, or do New Zealand wines become more distinctively ‘Kiwi’ every year? The wines suggest a growing confidence by winemakers to strut their distinctive regional, sub-regional and vineyard characteristics. It’s particularly evident in Central Otago Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, with winemakers focusing on sub-regional styles rather than producing a standard cross-regional blend. Given the vagaries of vintage, the overall standard was as high as ever and certainly no less than the level of quality enjoyed last year.

What should we buy from here?

Cast your eye down the list of Gold- and Trophy-winning Pinot Noirs. With one exception, they are all from the 2012 vintage. Central Otago had an absolutely marvellous vintage in 2012, while Pinot Noir also thrived in the cool-ish Marlborough vintage that year. The early-release 2013 reds from Hawke’s Bay validate the glowing reports about the vintage. Buy the top labels as soon as they are released; they promise to be outstanding. Our top Syrah – a Trophy – was for a wine from the excellent 2010 vintage in Hawke’s Bay. It’s worth buying 2010 Syrahs if you can find any.

What should we leave on the shelf?

Sauvignon Blanc under £8 was a big disappointment. Most would have been shipped from New Zealand as bulk wine before being bottled in the UK – a perfectly good process that should not impact on quality. But the wines were bland, dilute and lacked any real expression of variety and place. The rain-affected 2011 and 2012 vintages in the North Island, with the exception of Martinborough/Wairarapa, are generally disappointing.

What should we keep an eye on?

The panel was impressed with the quality of Grüner Veltliner, a recent newcomer to New Zealand. Waitaki, a cool, limestone-rich area in North Otago, is showing great promise, especially with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Central Otago Riesling is becoming even more thrilling and more concentrated with greater vine age. Botrytis-driven sweet wines are still New Zealand’s best-kept secret; the relatively few entries earned two Trophies and a Gold, which probably qualifies it for ‘most successful category’ title.

Written by Decanter

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