Three New Zealand wine shows

From 2018, The New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards becomes a combination of two wine shows: The Air New Zealand Wine Awards and the Bragato Wine Awards. That reduces the number of active wine shows to five, according to this very useful website which lists six wine shows that no longer operate on a regular basis. That reduces the number of active wine shows to five, with six wine shows that no longer operate on a regular basis.

My list of New Zealand’s top three wine competitions is, as they say on Dancing With the Stars “in no particular order,” The New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards, The New Zealand International Wine Show and the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. How do they differ?

A line-up of wines at the New Zealand International Wine Show awards ceremony. (Photo: New Zealand International Wine Show)

The New Zealand International Wine Show

A declaration of interest. I have been chairman of judges at this show since it was started by wine retailer, Kingsley Wood, in 2005.

As the name suggests, the show encourages international entries, although most are from New Zealand and Australia. From the judges’ perspective, the international wines provide a useful benchmark for the local entries, particularly in the sparkling classes. Wines are not judged by country to avoid any suggestion of bias. A class such as Italian red varieties might include wines from several different countries.

This is a friendly show with a large contingent of sorters and stewards, most of whom have been supporting the show since it began. Although organised by a wine retailer, who won’t argue if you describe him as opinionated, the show is professionally organised and scrupulously independent. It is also the largest local wine competition.

Warren Gibson will chair the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards 2018. (Photo: New Zealand Wine Directory)

The New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards

Another declaration of interest – I judged at this show during the late 80s and early 90s.

The New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards was, under its previous title – Air New Zealand Wine Awards, the country’s most influential wine show according to my survey of wine retailers. In its new form, it promises to be no less influential. A press statement from NZ Winegrowers explained

“The New Zealand Wine of the Year™ Awards will combine the very best components of the previous competitions, with a focus on rewarding the grape grower and their single vineyard wines (a core component of the Bragato Wine Awards), as well as championing New Zealand wine excellence on a larger scale (a key objective of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards).”

This is the official national wine competition of the New Zealand wine industry and has in the past had a generous budget to bring influential overseas wine critics, which they would argue raised the prestige of the show and stimulated favourable press in international publications.

Wines ready for judging at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. (Photo: Royal Easter Show Wine Awards)

Royal Easter Show Wine Awards

Yet another interest declaration. I have been a senior judge (1978-88) and chairman of judges (1989-2006) at this show.

This is New Zealand’s oldest active wine competition. When I took over as chairman in 1989, I was invited to change the judging director in order to distinguish it from the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. I decided that it should be “for consumers, by consumers” and introduced price categories; first, second and third awards in each class rather than gold, silver and bronze medals; and I banished winemaker judges. The changes proved to be a bit of a culture shock and the show quickly reverted to its original format, apart from the price categories, which continue to this day. Price categories provide a very useful guide for bargain hunters.

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