Tuesday, 02 November 2021 15:30

New World Wine Awards: Standout vintages impress judges

Written by  Staff Reporters
Co-chair of Judges Jen Parr and Sam Kim. Co-chair of Judges Jen Parr and Sam Kim.

It's important to constantly foster the next generation of winemakers and judges, says New World Wine Awards Co-Chair of Judges Jen Parr.

"Giving them opportunities to grow, but also in an environment with great mentors. Which you certainly see here." The 2020 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine New Zealand Winemaker of the Year was part of a stellar line up of New Zealand judges in Blenheim in July, alongside associate judges that included two Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology students.

Highly experienced judges, who've chaired here and abroad, give their time and expertise to help the associates, who can be "really nervouse" when judgigng for the first time, Jen says.

"As the day moves on, they start to breathe deeply and understand they can do this." Participating in the event was a great opportunity, says wine student Finn Horsfield, who works as a vineyard operator at Marisco and tackled the Corteva Marlborough Young Viticulturis of the Year Competition a week before judging. He enjoyed seeing the diversity of opinion between the judges. "Some of them had completely polar opposite scores and so did we as well," he says. "Just being honest is the biggest thing."

Competition Director Rachel Touhey says the competition is a great opportunity for associate judges to be mentored, but also for seasoned judges to learn from their peers. As an example, panels were paired in the assessment of the emerging varieties category, which made up around 60 of the 1,100 entries. Having two panels assess the wines together ensures a "cross pollination" among judges, who have varying levels of experience with those less-familiar varieties, says Rachel.

Wine is always evolving and the climate is changing "so we're in a constant fluz of change," says Jen. "To continue to grow, you have to continue to expose yourself to familiar and new things, and amongst peers and people you respect and learn from as well." As well as assessing emerging varieties, the competition took a deeper look into zero alcohol wines, for entries containing less than 0.5 percent alcohol. Jen says the low and no alcohol trend is real, and the industry has made a significant investment in the category, "that we have to take seriously".

The majority of the entries in this year's competition were wines harvested and made in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and "each of these vintages was a standout in its own right", she says. "They are combining to make this year's field of entries a particularly exciting one to taste our way through." Jen says she became a winemaker because of her love of wine and discovering new wines. "So I am a consumer first, a winemaker second and a judge third," she says. "For me there is excitement with how I first embraced wine and what I saw in a glass, and to me judging something blind goes back to that innocence of not knowing, and you can't really get it wrong, because you just say what you believe."

Low yields lighten entries

New Zealand's light 2021 vintage, paired with high global demand, meant entries in the New World Wine Award were down this year. The competition has a minimum stock requirement of 4,000 bottles, but made a temporary adjustment to 3,000 bottles for Sauvignon Blanc, in recognition of the low yields this year. Competition Director Rachel Touhey says international wines were also down a little due to shipping issues.

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