A panel of 26 top wine experts sniffed, swirled and tasted their way through over 1,300 wines for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

New Zealand’s premier wine competition

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In October 2017, a panel of 26 top wine experts, including judges from the USA, UK and Australia, sniffed, swirled and tasted their way through over 1,300 wines for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

Running for over 30 years, New Zealand’s premier wine competition recognises excellence in winemaking and is owned and organised by New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation for the country’s 1,600 grape growers and winemakers.

A Marlborough chardonnay won the top prize – the Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show trophy, as well as the Rabobank Champion Chardonnay trophy, at an Art Deco-inspired awards dinner in Napier.

Chair of judges Warren Gibson said the Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016 was a very classy example of the chardonnay in this year’s competition.

“It has a beautiful balance of components with a rich long finish. It’s packed with flavour but still maintains a remarkable lightness on its feet. – Warren Gibson

The producer of the top chardonnay, Isabel Estate Vineyard, is a pioneering winery in Marlborough and planted their first vineyards in 1980.

The vineyard has some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in the region. Chief winemaker Jeremy McKenzie said Isabel Estate Vineyard’s philosophy of working the land was simple.

“Respect the soil where the grapes grow and allow the unique characters of each vineyard and variety to be expressed in the final wine.”

The second highest accolade of the evening, the O-I New Zealand Reserve Wine of the Show trophy, went to the Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016. The pinot noir, made by chief winemaker Stu Marfell of Foley Family Wines, also won the JF Hillebrand New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir trophy.

“As with many of the best wines in this class, there is perfume and length with elegant tannins and a lingering and powerful finish.” – Warren Gibson

Bruce Parton, Air New Zealand’s chief operating officer,  said the airline was proud to have sponsored the New Zealand wine industry’s official awards for 31 years.

“Through our partnership with New Zealand Winegrowers, we are committed to championing the success of the industry right around the world, both through these awards as well as by working together to help grow wine tourism.”

Parton said Air New Zealand serves about eight million glasses of wine a year to its customers.

New Zealand Winegrowers represents the country’s 1500 grape growers and winemakers and has owned and organised the competition for over 40 years.

All the winners

Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show

Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016

O-I New Zealand Reserve Wine of the Show

Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016

JF Hillebrand New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir

Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016

Label and Litho Limited Champion Sauvignon Blanc

Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley Marlborough 2017

Rabobank Champion Chardonnay

Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016

Dish Magazine Champion Open Red Wine

Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016

Bayleys Real Estate Champion Merlot, Cabernet and Blends

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Merlot Hawke’s Bay 2016

Fruitfed Supplies Champion Syrah

Coopers Creek Reserve Syrah Hawke’s Bay 2016

Guala Closures New Zealand Champion Pinot Gris

Saddleback Pinot Gris Central Otago 2017

New World Champion Open White Wine

Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley Marlborough 2017

New Zealand Winegrowers Champion Sweet Wine

Forrest Botrytised Riesling Marlborough 2016

Plant & Food Research Champion Riesling

Mount Riley Riesling Marlborough 2017

Quay Connect Champion Other White Styles

Nautilus Albariño Marlborough 2017

Riedel New Zealand Champion Gewürztraminer

Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer Marlborough 2016

WineWorks Champion Sparkling Wine

Aotea by the Seifried Family Méthode Traditionnelle Nelson NV

New Zealand Winegrowers Champion Exhibition White or Sparkling Wine

Isabel Wild Barrique Chardonnay Marlborough 2016

New Holland Agriculture Champion Exhibition Red Wine

Falcon Ridge Estate Syrah Nelson 2016

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