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2004 NZWS Royal Easter Wine Show Sets New Records

2004 NZWS Royal Easter Wine Show Sets New Records

Three records marked the 51st New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Wine Show 2004, judged on 21 and 22 February at the Auckland Showgrounds. For the first time, the number of wines judged topped 1000, with 1013, compared with the previous record of 934 in 2003. Also, for the first time, the proportion of award winning wines reached 60%, compared with 55.4% last year. A record number of wineries, 172 entered the 2004 event, compared with 158 last year.

The 2004 medal counts (with 2003 in brackets) were: gold 54 (61), silver 152 (122), bronze 401 (334).

Steadily rising criteria for medal markings and consistency of quality across the complete portfolio of New Zealand wines, have been noted by the director of the show, Terry Dunleavy MBE, who organises the event each year on behalf of the Wine Committee of the Auckland Agricultural & Pastoral Association Inc. "My initial involvement in direction of the Royal Easter Wine Show began in 1993, after having organised the then National Wine Competition (now Air New Zealand Wine Awards) from 1975. So this is my 30th national judging of New Zealand wines on the trot. I have been in a unique position to observe two significant trends.

"The first trend has been the steady increase in the quality levels at which medals are awarded. Most of the 152 silver medals wines this year would have been gold medal wines in the late 1970's. Each year, the bar has been progressively raised. In the late 70s, a bronze medal signified a wine without fault, but not necessarily remarkable quality; now, a bronze medal denotes positive quality, with silvers significantly better, and golds the cream of the crop. So, while many consumers focus from habit on gold medals, they should realise silvers and bronzes are not very far behind, and that all award winning wines offer quality and a memorable tasting experience.

"The second trend has been the progressive rise in the proportion of entries receiving an award. It's not that many years ago that we thought that 40% was a fairly good figure. This year it's up to 60%, and I'm not surprised, given the levels of winemaking expertise in our wineries and the dedication to quality of our talented, innovative and technically well trained wine makers.

"What this show tells me is that the our wine industry is in good heart, and that New Zealand wine consumers have a veritable feast of choices; many at very affordable prices which should encourage them to buy New Zealand first."

Mr Dunleavy said also that of the 989 wines (excluding sparkling entries) capable of using either cork or screwcap closures, 414 (41.8%) were in screwcap, emphasising the rapid rise in acceptance of screwcaps as the closure of choice.

The wines were judged by four panels each of three senior judges, with each panel having two associate judges whose marks did not count in the medal assessment. Co-ordinating the judging was again chairman of judges, Bob Campbell MW, who was assisted by John Hancock as deputy-chairman.

In his post-judging summary, Bob Campbell said:

"The 2004 NZ Wine Society Royal Easter Wine Show will be remembered as a triumphant year for red wine, particularly Pinot Noir, Merlot and Merlot-based blends. New Zealand red wine has never been in better heart thanks to a favourable vintage in 2002.

"Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc contributed a predictably good tally of gold medal awards. There was a pleasing trend toward more fruit-focused Chardonnay styles with complexity derived from low-yielding vineyards rather than French forests. Although the judges awarded fewer gold medals to Chardonnay this year there was a higher overall medal tally indicating a general rise in quality.

"Several smaller classes, most notably Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and sweet wine, each produced at least a couple of examples that are about as good as I have ever seen," Mr Campbell concluded.

Winners of the trophies will be announced at the awards dinner to be held in the Auckland War Memorial Museum next Saturday evening.

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