Saturday, 22 December 2018 08:55

New-look awards celebrate whole industry

Written by  Tessa Nicholson
Maude Wine was crowned with NZ Wine of the YearTM Awards top trophy. Maude Wine was crowned with NZ Wine of the YearTM Awards top trophy.

The first phase of the New Zealand Winegrowers’ PwC strategic review suggested a revamp of the way the industry celebrates success.

Instead of two industry wine awards (Bragato Wine Awards and the former Air New Zealand Wine Awards) the suggestion was to combine both into one official wine industry competition – the New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards. It was also important to bring the industry together to celebrate more than just great wine, and so the New Zealand Wine Awards was born. This inaugural industry dinner was held in Wellington in early November.

Touted as a huge success, the change in focus meant people involved in the wine industry played a major role in the New Zealand Wine Awards. Both those who have helped forge the industry into what it is today and those that are emerging as the future leaders. 

In previous years both the Young Winemaker and Young Viticulturist have only been acknowledged at the finals of the individual events. That changed this year. Both Anabelle Bulk (Young Vit) and Greg Lane (Young Winemaker) were lauded in front of the rest of the industry for their achievements. It was a chance for NZW to highlight just what the two have achieved and why such events are vitally important to the growth of the wine industry.

The gala event also acknowledged the New Zealand School of Winegrowing, which began its tenure this year. Established in Blenheim, the school brings winegrowing into the classroom, and is open to students from both Marlborough Girl’s and Marlborough Boys’. Two of the students who have completed the first year attended the celebrations and were recognised by NZW for their achievements.

It’s a long way from Canada to Wellington, but that didn’t prevent NZW celebrating 25 years of service to the New Zealand wine industry by Robert Ketchin. A Market Manager for Canada, Ketchin was key to opening up the Canadian market for our wines. Present at the Awards dinner, his long service was feted.

On top of those recognitions, three members of the wine industry were inducted as Fellows on the night.

Jane Hunter arrived on the New Zealand wine scene back in 1983, and has been involved ever since. Originally working for Montana, she took over the reins of Hunter’s Wines when husband Ernie died in 1987. Over the past 30 years she has been a member of the Wine Institute Board and various committees, and was a foundation Director of the New Zealand Wine Guild which charted the path forward for New Zealand wine in the UK in the early 1990’s. Hunter has also been involved outside the wine industry per se, serving as a member of the Trade and Enterprise Board and Plant and Food. Her commitment to the industry overall has seen her awarded an OBE and made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Mark Nobilo has the wine industry flowing through his veins. With a last name of Nobilo, it was probably inevitable that he would end up in the wine industry. But it has been his ability to willingly pass on knowledge as a viticulturist that was acknowledged with being made a Fellow. In the early years he spent a great deal of time working with Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay growers, helping them to produce quality grapes. More recently his skills have been passed on to viticulturists in the Northland area, often at no charge.

With over 40 years of industry experience, Ivan Sutherland was the third Fellow to be inducted. He was one of the first people to place his faith in the new wine industry in Marlborough, becoming a contract grower in the 70s. His knowledge quickly grew and he became a consultant, helping other farmers turn their hand to grape growing. Helping found the Marlborough Grape Growers Association, Sutherland went on to be a part of the board of Wine Marlborough for a number of years. His belief in strong research saw him serve as Chair of the original Marlborough Wine Research Centre Board. More latterly he was a Trustee  of The Marlborough Research Centre. His services to the wine industry and New Zealand rowing saw him become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Sutherland is co-owner of Dog Point Wines.

So onto the wines that were entered into the New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards.

With close to 1400 wines entered, 77 received gold medals, which equates to 5.8 percent of all wines entered.

Chair of Judges Warren Gibson says the medals and resulting trophies shows; “that our maturing and evolving wine industry is beginning to display a very strong relationship between variety, style and wine region. 

“This link appears far more dramatic than in past awards and suggests we are beginning to find a true sense of place in our very youthful wine industry.”

Being involved in the inaugural competition, Gibson said allowed himself and Deputy Chair Ben Glover, the opportunity to take the positive legacies of the two previous awards and move them forward.

“The focus of the New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards competition is strongly towards celebrating the entire New Zealand wine industry with a particular lean towards vineyard excellence and regionality. The increasing relevance of organic grape-growing and the move towards a single vineyard focus in
our industry has been particularly rewarded in this new format.”

He described what he felt may be a first in the New Zealand wine competition, given the wines were judged in regional brackets. As the wines were masked, the team of judges were unaware of the region they were tasting, but it did allow them to judge “like for like”.

“Similarly the organic wines were not only judged in the main depth of the competition but also presented as a class of organic wines in isolation. This gave the best wines the strongest chance to shine.”

While Marlborough was the region awarded the most gold medals, the total of 77 was spread across every major region. Eight trophies were awarded to Marlborough, three to Central Otago (including New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Champion) and three to Hawke’s Bay. For the full list of 


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