Wānaka Sun       

Behind the scenes with Wānaka wine judges

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 17 Oct, 2019 | By Abby Costen newsdesk@thewanaksun.co.nz

Local winemakers Vanessa Robson and Jenn Parr assisted in judging this year's New World Wine Awards (NWWA) in which rosé reigned supreme⁠—nine rosé wines earned a place in the NWWA Top 50, and more than 70 won a medal in the competition overall. 

The Top 50 winning wines are on shelves in liquor-selling New World stores nationwide from October 7.

Local 2019 NWWA judge and winemaker at Maude Wines, Vanessa Robson, said, “I'm from Adelaide, which is where I also studied winemaking and worked for a few years before travelling overseas for harvests. I came to Wānaka in 2013 to work vintage for Maude Wines. When I arrived I thought this is the place I want to live and was lucky enough to fall in love with Maude and get offered a full-time winemaking position. It all fell into place and I moved here permanently at the start of 2014.”

Robson was offered a role at the NWWA after judging other wine shows. She was also an associate at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards and the Royal Easter Wine Awards.

Robson added, “My role as a winemaker also requires a lot of tasting and grading of wines, so I have learnt a lot through my position at Maude Wines.”

Robson loved being a judge at the NWWA and believes it's a great event to be part of as it showcases great wines at an affordable price point. 

Robson said, “At the end of the day you're looking for the same thing in any wine show, balance, complexity, poise and purity of fruit. The wines that take home gold medals are the ones that tick all the boxes and have that extra special layer of complexity that makes you take a bottle home.  As all the wines are judged blind the price point doesn't come into play or skew your perception.”

The NWWA uses the internationally recognised 100-point system, under which wines are benchmarked and scored against what a perfect wine should be like. All entries are tasted ‘blind', meaning judges only see the wine in the glass, never a bottle or brand. 

Well over 1000 wines entered the 2019 NWWA. Entries were judged by 17 independent experts over three days to award Gold, Silver and Bronze medals as well as Champion trophies and the Top 50 rankings.

Robson stated that feedback from the NWWA  is beneficial to producers as “it gives them an idea of how their product is viewed in the market. A medal definitely passes the message that they are on the right path, a no award might make them assess some of their winemaking or growing procedures. It also provides a way for producers to see what styles and wines are receiving accolades and provides a benchmark for certain varieties and styles.”

“I moved to NZ in 2007 and after nine months in Cromwell, I moved to Wānaka in 2008,” said local 2019 NWWA  judge and winemaker at Valli Vineyards, Jen Parr. “I was first invited to judge the NWWA in 2018 so this was my second year. I have been judging wine shows in NZ since 2011 and have been in wine production since 2002.”

Parr added, “It is a fantastic show to judge with tremendous quality and diversity in the judging team. I particularly enjoy having New World employees as associate judges as it makes it much more meaningful for the senior judges and ultimately the New World customers.”

Parr believes all great wines are about balance and harmony irregardless of the price point. “It is rare to know the price point of the wine in other shows, so it is somewhat irrelevant.  The wine needs to have presence, freshness and harmony and be true to the variety. A variety of styles are celebrated. I would expect a touch more complexity from higher end wines but given I don't know the price point it isn't the most important criteria for me.”

Parr concluded, “The show gives producers a voice from outside their own company—a validation of authenticity and quality from a well run show with an experienced team of judges. It is a competitive industry and particularly at the value price point so these awards help consumers find some great wines they might not have stumbled upon without guidance.”

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