The world cup of wine

There are many competitions which allow New Zealand wines to compete against those from other countries. Because much of our wine is exported it’s useful to see how they stack up against the competition.

My favourite international wine competition is The Six Nations Wine Challenge held in Sydney each year. It’s a simple and effective concept. A selector/judge from each of the chosen countries: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and the US picks the top 100 wines from their home country. Entry is by invitation only which ensures a very high standard.

The wines are shipped to Sydney where they are sorted by type (e.g. Sparkling, Riesling, Pinot Noir etc.) and tasted blind by the six judges. In addition to Top Wine of Show and Top Country of Show, we award trophies to the top wine in each of 16 classes and to the country that wins each class.

New Zealand is slightly handicapped by being the smallest wine producing country by far. There are several classes, such as “White Blends” that we simply don’t qualify to enter because we don’t make them.

We may be small in terms of wine production but we stand tall as far as quality is concerned. New Zealand was Top Country this year by a significant margin. We also won the trophy for Top Wine of Show with Framingham 2014 Noble Riesling (tastings), a truly world class sweet wine. New Zealand won seven out of the 16 classes, a wonderful result when you consider that six countries were competing for line honours. A New Zealand wine came top in five out of the sixteen classes, another fine performance.

The trophy winning wines were: Johanneshof 2014 Late Delivery Gewurztraminer (Aromatic class – tastings), Saint Clair 2014 Pioneer Block 3 Sauvignon Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc class – tastings), Matua 2013 Single Vineyard Merlot Malbec (Bordeaux Blends class – tastings), Sacred Hill 2013 Brokenstone (Other Red Blends class – tastings) and Framingham 2014 Noble Riesling (Sweet Wine class – tastings).

Why did New Zealand do so well? The competition has been going for 13 years and we’ve only won it twice before while Australia has come top in the remaining 10 years. Significantly, New Zealand also won the competition last year, an indication that our wine quality may be improving at a faster rate than Australia.

A great 2013 North Island vintage gave us a helping hand but I think that more mature vines and greater winemaking experience also helped. At the heart of it is Kiwi competitiveness. It doesn’t matter whether its netball, rugby or wine … we like to win, and we especially like to beat Australia.

Top Wine

Framingham 2014 Noble Riesling, Marlborough $40 (375ml)

I think that sweet wines are one of New Zealand’s best kept wine secrets. This is a truly outstanding sweet wine made by a brilliant winemaker, Dr Andrew Hedley. Congratulations if you manage to buy a bottle – it’s made in very small quantities and is in high demand. The 2015 Noble Riesling is likely to be just as good. – view on

Top wine at an affordable price

Johanneshof 2014 Gewurztraminer, Marlborough $29

Choosing this wine for the competition was a no-brainer because it’s a high-performer every year. It’s a stunning wine with masses of lychee and floral Gewurztraminer flavours with just a touch of sweetness for extra appeal. It’s a great wine to serve as an aperitif and a brilliant match with Thai curries. – view on

Matua 2013 Merlot Malbec $50, Hawke’s Bay

This may seem to be on the pricey side but it was one of the least expensive wines in its class. It is an outstanding red wine from a brilliant vintage. It’s a great choice if you are looking for a wine that will last a decade or more but is also dangerously drinkable now. – view on

First published in Your Home and Garden Magazine – Oct 2015.

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