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Royal Easter Show Wine Awards

Royal Easter Show Wine Awards

in association with the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame
Auckland Showgrounds, Greenlane Road. PO Box 26014 Auckland 3, New Zealand.

28 FEBRUARY 2006 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2006

Records continued to tumble in New Zealand’s oldest wine competition, the 53rd Royal Easter Show Wine Awards judged at the newly re-named ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane Auckland, over the weekend 25/26 February 2006.

Total entries were a record 1343, up 6.5% from last year’s previous record;
total medals were up 8.8% at 755, with the percentage of medal winning wines reaching 56.2% compared with 54.9% in 2005.
A record 79 gold medals were awarded, compared with 70 in 2005, with the gold medal tally increasing to 5.9% from 5.6% last year. Silver medals also rose to 169 (12.6%) from 141 (11.2%) last year, and bronzes to 507 (37.5%) from 481 (38.1%).

A record 226 wineries entered the 2006 competition. In anticipation of the increase in entries, the number of judging panels was increased from the previous four to five this year, under the guidance and supervision of long-serving chairman of judges, Bob Campbell MW, and as his deputy, the highly respected Australian judge and author, James Halliday.

According to the long-time director of the competition, Terry Dunleavy, there were three main features this year:

“First was the increasing domination of screw cap closures, the full extent of which will not be revealed until the announcement of the class trophy winners at the Awards Dinner in the Logan Campbell Centre at the ASB Showgrounds on Saturday evening 18 March. Of the 79 gold medal winners, 70 (89%) were under screw cap, as were 134 (79%) of the 169 silver medals, and 388 (76%) of the bronzes, after deducting the medals won by bottle fermented sparkling which are traditionally closed with cork. There is no doubt that screw caps have become the preferred closure for New Zealand wine producers, and, indeed for consumers, and it bodes well for our being seen as the leader of the continuing worldwide swing to this new closure.

“Second was the emergence of Syrah as the star class. Even after allowing for the recovery of Sauvignon Blanc, our premier export variety, with the superb 2005 vintage dry yielding 19 gold medals from 199 entries (9.5%), mostly from Marlborough, Syrah has burst on to the New Zealand wine scene with seven golds from 43 entries (16.3%). Just as remarkable was the fact that of those 43 entries, all but six failed to win a medal, for an overall medal strike rate of 86%. This compares with the previous glamour red variety, Pinot Noir, which had 11 golds from 207 entries (5.3%), and an overall medal strike rate of 128 (61.8%).

“Third was our decision to pioneer in New Zealand, the use of larger Riedel glasses for the judging. The Wine Committee of the Auckland Agricultural & Pastoral Association deserves commendation for its immediate acceptance of the recommendation of the chairman of judges, Bob Campbell MW, after judging at the Australian National Wine Competition in Canberra last November under the chairmanship of the distinguished Australian judge James Halliday, who was again deputy chairman for the 2006 Royal Easter in Auckland. Bob made a strong request for the switch to the larger Riedel glass from the previous standard, the XL5.

I will leave it to Bob and James to comment on the reasons why the larger Riedel glass is superior; all I can say is that it was satisfying to receive the almost unanimous thanks of all judges and associates for the decision to switch to the new glass. It was appropriate that this latest advance in wine judging should be pioneered by the Royal Easter, which is the longest established national wine competition in the country.

It is also appropriate that I should acknowledge Riedel and its New Zealand agent, Glengarry Hancocks, for making it possible for our show to obtain these glasses at a special price which made the change financially feasible, as well as New Zealand Winegrowers for agreeing to share in the not insignificant investment on the basis that the glasses will also be available for use in the judging of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards from 2006 onward.”

Mr Dunleavy said that current building alterations to the front portion of the Carter Holt pavilion of the ASB Showgrounds meant that the judging had to be relocated indoors to Hall 3. “As it turned out, having the total operation under one roof, on an interconnected ground floor, and with the superb lighting by Show Light & Power Ltd creating consistent and virtual daylight, the whole organisation ran like clockwork. After active senior managerial involvement in one or other of the two major national wine competitions every year since 1975,

I am satisfied that the 2006 Royal Easter was judged to the highest professional standards and produced fair and accurate results which will be a reliable guide to both wine producers and their consumers.

"It is probably necessary to remind consumers that every class of medal is an indicator of superior quality in a wine. While gold medals are undeniably the creme de la creme, the dividing line between silver and bronze can be extremely fine, so that it is a mistake to downgrade bronze medal wines in anyone's esteem as they offer quality wine drinking, and, very often, amazing value," said Mr Dunleavy.

A full list of medals won can be viewed on the website www.wineshow.co.nz

Trophies won at the 2006 Royal Easter will be announced at the gala black tie Awards Dinner in the Logan Campbell Centre, ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane on Saturday evening, 18 March commencing at 6.30 p.m. Wine lovers are welcome to attend. Tickets will be available at Glengarry wine shops throughout Auckland, or by application to Robin Hill.

Bob Campbell MW, Chairman of Judges

James Halliday has heaped praise (below) on the Chardonnay and Syrah classes so I will restrict my comments to the other classes that performed with distinction.

Sauvignon Blanc is top of my list for special mention. The number of gold medal awards in the current vintage classes (20) clearly indicate that 2005 was a stellar vintage. The best wines certainly showed great clarity of ripe fruit flavours and impeccable balance with a concentration of the sort of characters that put Marlborough (all the gold medal wines were from Marlborough) at the head of the field.

Riesling was more variable with too many no award wines although the best had the vibrance and subtle power that Riesling lovers seek and seldom find.
Pinot Gris is class of emerging importance so it was pleasing to see an even higher percentage of gold medals here than in the Riesling class. The stand-out wines have the sort of fruit concentration that can only be the result of relatively low-yielding vines. Cabernet Sauvignon has suffered a drop in status in recent years but the top wines from made from the variety, or at least using a dominant blend of it, are a reminder of its strength in a good red vintage like 2004. It was good to see a mix of blockbuster with finer, more elegant styles.

Similarly Merlot might be struggling in the marketplace but the sheer concentration and seductive textures of the best examples showed that some winemakers continue to shoot for the top despite market conditions.

A challenging 2004 Pinot Noir vintage in Central Otago and Martinborough has opened the door to a minor flood of very elegant Marlborough wines in a variety of styles from sleek to sumptuous while the Méthode class delivered its usual relatively high percentage of gold medals.

This has been a flawless wine competition both in the backroom and on the judging tables. My sincere thanks to the large team of people, ably led by Terry Dunleavy, who made it such a success.

James Halliday, Deputy Chairman

There were two changes at this year’s Show, both highly successful, though only one was the outcome of planning. The latter was the purchase of Riedel (Magnum Overture) glasses for the judging. Just as was the case in Australia’s Canberra National Wine Show last November and the Sydney Royal Wine Show earlier this month, the reaction of the judges was nigh-on ecstatic. The objective consequence was a record number of gold medals, the aromatic classes (including Pinot Noir) were particular beneficiaries.

The second change was the venue, a ground-floor room at the Carter Holt Pavilion of the ASB Showgrounds which was more spacious, closer to the other facilities and helping the stewards bring the wines quickly into the judging arena. As in Canberra, washing and drying the glasses was easier, an unexpected bonus.

The highlights of the Show for me were the numbers of truly elegant fine yet complex Chardonnays, a light-year away from the wines of 10-years, indeed 5-years, ago. The other highlight was the 2004 and older Syrah class with an astonishing but totally justified six gold and 12 silver medals from 38 entries. Only six wines failed to win an award.

The gold nedals covered a range of styles from Côte-Rotie-like spicy, gamy complexity to the lustrous polish of the wine that won the Syrah trophy. From an Australian perspective the overall character of these wines had a distinct New Zealand edge, or point of difference, yet they remain fairly and squarely in the world family of Syrah.

ENDS

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