Sunday, 12 February 2023 14:25

The Blind Tasting 2022

Written by  Sophie Preece
Emma Jenkins MW Emma Jenkins MW

The Blind Tasting 2022 highlighted the “sweet spot” behind New Zealand viticulture, from Northland through to Central Otago.

There’s variation in growing conditions down the length of the country, but all 10 wine regions entered in the tasting fall into cool climate viticulture, “or just on the margins of it”, says panel leader Emma Jenkins MW. “That is what brings out the best in grape varieties.”

The attributes of natural environment and passionate people are the “anchors” of an industry with a long-term future, Emma says. “Where you have not only the ability to make really fine wine but you have people who are absolutely passionate about getting the best out of their site and their varieties. It’s really neat to have a tasting which is starting to celebrate that focus.”

Emma led 27 panellists in nine teams at The Blind Tasting, which has been reviewed to offer greater value to members and trade, while selecting wines for levy funded New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) marketing activity. The team tasted 845 wines in 36 varieties and styles from 10 New Zealand wine regions, with a varietal range Emma sees as a strength of the industry. “It’s not any blinding insight to say there were lots of good Pinots that came out of Central or lots of good Sauvignon that came out of Marlborough,” she says. But her Varietal Summaries report, just released to NZW members, emphasises the lack of regional monopoly on these varieties or any other, with excellent and exciting examples from throughout the country.

It talks of the depth and diversity in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, “with top scoring wines hailing from all regions”, and the high performance of Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s smaller regions, as well as subregions in Central Otago and Marlborough. “There was a good range of styles, from charming juicy drink-me-now wines, to thoughtful, elegant Pinots that emerge kaleidoscopically from the glass,” she writes.

Rieslings submitted from throughout the South Island provided “a solid and at times exciting class,” with no regional front runners, while eight of the 10 regions that submitted Chardonnay, delivered top wines. “New Zealand’s climate and environment can produce thrilling Chardonnay the length and breadth of the country”, the report says. The panellists were also “pleasantly surprised” by entries in the small Orange category, with five wines from four different regions. It’s likely to remain a niche area, “but it’s great to see boundaries being pushed and horizons broadened”.

The refreshed programme was launched in August 2022, after a review by NZW into how it benefits members. Previously a closed-door event in Auckland dedicated to selecting wines for marketing activity, The Blind Tasting will now travel to a different region each year, with 2022’s tasting held in Nelson.

NZW Education and Insights Manager Felicity Turner says The Blind Tasting still identifies wines that tell the most compelling story for New Zealand wine, “focused on quality, site and style”. However, the new iteration is set to deliver wider benefits, more directly to members and domestic trade, including the Associate Panellist Programme, which provides opportunity for all industry members to learn and develop their palate alongside industry peers, and wider trade. Trade panellists are now a large proportion of the tasting, ensuring “more robust results”, Felicity says. “Particularly when one considers that the end audience of these wines is international trade.” Meanwhile, The (Not) Blind Tasting after the formal selection, open to all members and local trade, is an “unparalleled” opportunity for members and trade to taste a snapshot of New Zealand, Felicity says.

The Blind Tasting itself has small flights of 10 to 12 wines to ensure each can be considered closely, and allow more time for discussion and debate. “The idea was to not look at things from a gold, silver, bronze point of view,” Emma says, noting the event included submissions from wineries that don’t typically enter wine shows, because it has a different purpose and focus. “We’re not just looking for something that’s perhaps a shiny, perfect classic gold. We wanted something that captured how we are making our wine here. Because these wines are the ones that are going to go out and be our calling card for the world at NZW events.”

To read The Blind Tasting 2022 Varietal Summaries, go to:

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