Finally able to surface after writing tasting notes for 199 gold medals wines for the NZ International Wine Show has made me think I can't do a Wine of the Week this week. After all, all I tasted last week was gold medal wines, and there were so many delicious wines to choose from.
I only finished the notes yesterday, six days after completion of the show, and you may be wondering why it took me so long. Well, first I taste the wines and write notes into a book. I tried typing them directly into my computer one year but the workspace at the show venue was not ergonomic, and the pain started setting in quite quickly. Then there is also the fear of losing my work, as well as the possible situation of a spill and losing my computer, so now I always write into a hard covered book.
The notes are typed, as I have written them, then the editing starts, condensing the descriptions down to 24 words – and that's the hard part. Does what I've ended up with make sense? And does each description show each wine's unique attributes, as each wine is definitely unique.
Chardonnay (23 golds) was the hardest this year as many of the wines were quite lean nutty styles. It was a joy to taste bolder wines like Marsden Estate Black Rocks from Northland and Clearview Estate and Pukeora Hills from the inland limestone country of Hawkes Bay.
Pinot Gris (14 golds) was delicious. Finally there is understanding out there that fruit is the key to the success of this varietal. I also had a penchant for those wines with a touch of musky spice. A mix of 2010 and 2011 wines.
Riesling (16 golds) was interesting with styles ranging from bracingly dry to seductively sweet. I know what I like best.
I'm falling in love with Sauvignon Blanc again and the 15 gold medal winners were joyous. The gold medal tally seems low considering the number of wines in the class, but the show was brought forward a month to avoid the Rugby World Cup and many new vintage savvies were not bottled in time. However the freshness and vivaciousness of the 2011 vintage wines was exciting and the three from 2010 showed how good some of the more textural Sauvs can be with that little bit of bottle age.
Gewurztraminer (6 golds) and Viognier (4) were delightful and the seven sweeties, just hedonist and I loved the only wine to go gold amongst all the Other White Varieties – the Bimbagden McDonalds Rd Semillon 2007 from the Hunter Valley.
Rose was another class with only one gold and like the other whites, a New South Wales wine was supreme. Rolling Pink 2011 is a blend of Cabernet and Shiraz.
Merlot (12 golds) was a New Zealand clean sweep. But it was a tough class to write notes for because of the tannins. When tasting tannin-rich wine after tannin-rich wine, you need something to counterbalance the effect. Chocolate cake at afternoon tea wasn't too bad. Of course in a consumer situation, the tannins would be tamed with rare-cooked meat or cheese.
Cabernet Sauvignon and blends (12 golds) was Australian-dominant with just two Kiwis – Coopers Creek and Passage Rock, making the gold medal grade. Very nice wines they were too, I have to say.
Shiraz was exciting this year and from the 28 golds awarded, 5 went to New Zealand wines. Coopers Creek, Elephant Hill, Te Awa, Ti Point and Trinity Hill flew the New Zealand flag high. It should be pointed out that at the NZ International, wines are not separated out by country for judging. They are judged by varietal so New Zealand Syrahs were judged alongside the Aussie blockbuster Shirazes. Interesting to see a Canberra wine winning a gold medal too.
Pinot Noir – what can I say. 31 golds, all from New Zealand and all superliscious. The regional tally was Marlborough 14, Central Otago 9, Martinborough/Wairarapa 5, Nelson 1 and two multi-region blends. Lot of enjoyment across a number of price points for Pinot Noir drinkers here.
The International and Other Reds category is a combination of several classes – including Italian styles, Spanish styles, Grenache, Blends with Shiraz and Malbec-dominant, for example. Nine wines in total won gold across these classes.
And lastly Fortified Wines. Superb, sublime, a great way to finish. 11 beauties from Portugal, Spain and Australia featured in this category.
All of the gold medals can be found on the NZ International Wine Show website – www.nziws.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
24 Aug 2011