Being a wine judge has always been one of my goals these last few years. So it was with the utmost excitement when I was asked to join the NZWine Magazine tasting panel as an associate judge.
WineNZ Magazine is New Zealand's only wine dedicated magazine and is only distributed four times throughout the year. The magazine focuses on industry news, wine tastings, new wine releases and features on wineries and leading wine industry figures. The magazine is also comprehensive in their coverage of New Zealand’s wine shows.
The tasting I was fortunate enough to partake in was for the upcoming Summer edition of the magazine. The three main judges who were in charge of scoring the wines included Master of Wine and Chairman of the panel, Simon Nash; Distinguished winemaker, Ant Mackenzie and Alpha Domas winemaker, Barry Riwai. I myself and Vidal assistant winemaker, Olly Styles were the two associate judges.
The wine judging took place at EIT sensory room on Friday 4th November 9am sharp. After becoming acquainted with the other judges, photos were taken for the magazine before getting down to business.
The first few flights consisted of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with the majority of the entries coming from Marlborough. A few Sauvignon Blancs also came from Martinborough and Hawke’s Bay. Many of the wines received medals as the standard was relatively high. My favourites were definitely the oak aged Sauvignon Blancs which were all complex, mouthwatering and balanced.
The next few flights consisted of New Zealand sparkling wine. All methods of sparkling production were on show including Methode Traditionelle, Carbonation and the Charmat method. The Methode Traditionelle wines definitely stood out with their autolysis characters displaying more complexity and creaminess.
The last flight of the morning session was a range of new releases from New Zealand and Australia. A zesty Riesling was on display along with a number of intriguing Australian Shiraz wines.
We then enjoyed a humorous lunch where conversation centred around the current state of NZ’s wine industry as well as some light-hearted banter. Following lunch, two flights of Rose were judged. The Rose section was definitely the surprise of the day as many of the wines scooped up medals. Simon was enthralled by the improvements made in New Zealand concerning Rose production, which is exciting to see, as New Zealand has the weather and market to be even more successful in this style of wine.
Overall the experience was priceless. Having 8 hours tasting some of New Zealand’s finest wines alongside the best judges was a great opportunity. The best part of the judging was comparing my own scores and tasting notes with those of the other judges. It allowed for me to put into context my wine discrimination skills and palate endurance. In the end more than 120 wines were tasted.
Thanks to Tim Creagh for inviting me to be part of this event.