It is 1988 and I am the narrator in the school’s Christmas play. I have an argument on stage with the grandfather clock over his lines while Christian Bizot, the head of Champagne house Bollinger is doing something far more worthy: setting up the Madame Bollinger Foundation. It was formed in memory of Elisabeth …
Angry New Zealand vintners dumped tens of tonnes of rotting grapes at the entrance of Air New Zealand’s Auckland headquarters today* after the national carrier announced it would be serving just one supplier’s wine on its flights, leaving nearly 700 other wineries wondering what the hell they’d done wrong.
While the airline champions its “ …
2014 was an unusual year for reviewing wines. Being pregnant for the first half of the year and then having a mini person to feed meant large scale tastings were off the cards. However, I’ve still managed to get through a heck of a lot of delicious – and a lot of why did they …
Applications for the 12th young wine writer of the year award have opened. It is six years since I won the award, which opened the door for me to enter the world of wine journalism and get my bottom pinched by Oz Clarke (he was reprimanded for that but has since tried his luck again on several occasions!).
All you have to do is write 1500 words on anything you want as long as it’s wine-related – oh, and you have to be under 30. Ah, youth.
Having spent the first half of 2006 in Australia working the harvest in Victoria’s Alpine Valleys, I travelled around Australia’s wine regions in a clapped out Mitsubishi (it gave up the ghost in Queensland, sadly), which inspired my winning article on the Mornington Peninsula. I had gone to Australia thinking that I might want to be a winemaker but the vintage experience soon knocked all romantic notions out of me and gave me the impetus to pursue writing. Thankfully I got my lucky break with the young wine writer competition. The prize has also opened doors for wine writers including Peter Richards MW and Stuart George.
There are two major prizes – £1000 to spend on a trip to a wine region of your choosing plus a 14-day all-expenses paid trip to Australia – that’s a better deal than you get as a journalist!!
Entries close on 30 September 2012 so get your thinking caps on and put pen to paper.
If the New Zealand Olympic team performs as well as its wine industry did at the 2012 International Wine Challenge (IWC), there will be plenty of happy Kiwis.
New Zealand wineries took 26 gold medals this year, an increase of almost 25% year on year, which placed New Zealand as the 6th most-awarded wine producing country in the world.
Trans-Tasman rival Australia won 69 golds but let’s remember how small New Zealand is – it has 37,000 hectares of vines in total while Australia has almost five times as many vineyards, covering 172,000 hectares.
Delegat’s Wine Estate and Mills Reef Winery led the way for New Zealand wineries each picking up two of the highly coveted gold medals. New Zealand wines were also awarded 100 silver medals and 166 bronze medals.
New Zealand wines were also rated as the ‘cleanest’ wines in the world – Kiwi entries had the lowest incidence of wine faults such as cork taint or oxidation compared with entries from 49 other countries. With more than nine out of ten bottles of New Zealand wine sealed under screwcap, the aluminium closure industry will surely be claiming victory over their natural cork rivals.
The 29th IWC saw 425 gold medals awarded (the highest gold medal tally in the history of the IWC) with winning wines selected from a record 50 countries. For the first time, there were entries from Colombia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the latter awarded one silver and two bronze, establishing them as emerging contenders for quality wine production.
Here are some of the highlights from this year’s results:
- The top three gold medal-winning nations for 2012 are reigning champions France with 120, Australia 69 and Portugal 55
- France topped the medal board overall with a total of 1,136 medals, while Australia came second with 673 and Portugal third with 444
- There were entries from 50 countries
Alas I am no longer the current Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year. That’s what happens with annual awards. You’re soon so last year!
But congratulations to Gabby Savage, deputy editor at the Drinks Business taking this year’s crown. Well deserved. She came to Harpers magazine when I was features editor on a work experience placement. A few months later, a staff writing job came up at the Drinks Business and she got it. She was quickly promoted to deputy editor when Jane Parkinson left the team, and she’s had her nose to the grindstone since. Well done. Spend your winnings unwisely!
Nice to see a few international writers getting on the winner’s podium this year. The competition has been accused of being UK-centric so it’s good to see US writer and natural wine supporter, Alice Feiring becoming online columnist/blogger of the year, Max Allen wine wine book of the year for The Future Makers: Australian Wine for the 21st Century and fellow Australian Tyson Stelzer win the Champagne writer of the year for his Champagne Guide 2011 eBook.
The other winners were…
The Artistry of Wine Award
International Wine Website of the Year
Tim Atkin M.W. for timatkin.com
International Wine Publication of the Year
The World of Fine Wine
Regional Wine Writer of the Year
Liz Sagues for the Hampstead & Highgate Express
International Wine Columnist of the Year
Victoria Moore for articles from the Guardian/ the Telegraph
International Wine Feature Writer of the Year
Andrew Jefford for articles from The World of Fine Wine and Decanter
Delicious food. When it came. I was almost ready to eat my hand by the time we got fed at the Air New Zealand Awards on Saturday night. 9 p.m and still no entree. I should have brought a sausage roll or bag of crisps in my handbag. It was a great event and opera singer, Aivale Cole’s, performance was spine tingling but was it a looooong night.
I have never been to a wine awards where the winners are allowed to make a speech. Is this a good idea? We know you want to thank your viticulturist, marketing team and Aunty Ethel but geez did they go on, and on. And the presenter, Petra somebody, a TV presenter so famous I’d never heard of her insisted on reading out all the tasting notes for the winning wines. Thanks, but we can read.
By the time dinner was finally finished, somewhere around midnight, I had lost my impetus. And my dancing shoes had walked off.
And the winner is
Anyway, now I’ve had a moan, Pinot Noir was the big winner of the night with 31 golds. For all the winners, click here.
And the champion trophy winner was also a Pinot Noir from Peregrine in Central Otago.
Steve Smith of Craggy Range and chair of judges, admitted: “There will no doubt be a bit of bleating about the 31 Pinot Noir gold winners.”
He then made a rousing speech on getting behind the fickle red variety: “I now wish to lay down the gauntlet to the evangelists who believe in our Pinot Noir,” he said.
“It’s time to throw off the shroud of conservatism. We should unite in our parochialism.”
“New Zealand Pinot Noir will take all the wines of New Zealand with it…and we must continue to invest in our most successful style – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”
Smith urged his fellow Kiwi producers to take a bit of the Australian out of the Australians, and shout about how great New Zealand wine is rather than being so modest. And I have to agree. Less of the shrinking wallflower, please.
Don’t drink too much
Stuart Smith, chair of NZ Winegrowers, also made some interesting points at the start of the night, no doubt with the NZ government’s impending liquor reform on his mind – and making sure the wine industry didn’t get too pissed that night and embarrass itself.
“Up to 1961 it was illegal to serve wine and food together to preserve our moral fibre,” he began. “And it delivered some of the worst service standards in the world”. There may even have been a mention of New Zealand being the inspiration for Fawlty Towers.
“In 2011 our industry and our world class tourist industry will be under the microscope like never before when we host the Rugby World Cup.”
“We are all about being world class. It is always about quality not quantity,” he added.
“We need to be clear what we stand for. Responsible drinking is about good food, sociability and enjoyment. It is not about drunkenness.”
Still, there were probably some sore heads on Sunday morning and walking through Auckland city centre afterwards, it was clear that more needs to be done to tackle irresponsible drinking than a liquor reform.
I have a fuzzy head. It’s no surprise – an evening with Louis Roederer and Cristal flowing will inevitably end in feeling jaded the next day. Happily, I woke up to the pleasant reality that I was now the Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year, which alleviated the headache – as did a couple of ibuprofen.
It was my last night in the UK before I head back to New Zealand, and the top floor of the Gherkin (or the Artichoke as my sister called it) is an amazing place to sup Champagne with 360 degree views of London town.
It was made even better when I won the Emerging Award. You work your ass off as a young freelancer to gain credibility – and make a living – and it’s great to gain acknowledgement from the industry. The £1500 prize is also helpful. I have already spent it twice over in my head.
Fellow northerners had a good night. Simon Woods walked away with the International Online Columnist of the Year and Tom Bruce-Gardyne from bonnie Scotland won the Regional title.
Other winners were…the FT’s John Stimpfig for International Wine Feature Writer of the Year, jancisrobinson.com taking International Wine Website of the Year and The World of Fine Wine taking International Wine Publication of the year.
Back to NZ now with a day in Hong Kong to check out what’s happening in the Asian wine world.
I was polishing off a bottle of Hawke’s Bay Syrah last night with a flatmate. I thought it was elegant; he didn’t think it had enough balls. I tried to explain that just because it didn’t have balls didn’t mean it wasn’t a great wine. Big doesn’t mean better. But what if that’s what you like?
We concluded that everybody needs to find a wine critic with similar taste. It helps if they write well (that doesn’t stop a few people) but wine is a matter of taste.
It’s the same with film reviews. Any movie that gets a five star rating in the Independent newspaper, I avoid like the plague: The Aviator, The English Patient, Lord of the Rings. Spare me the three-hour epic. If it gets two stars the likelihood is, it’s for me. There’s nothing wrong with liking a trashy movie and there’s nothing wrong with drinking something uncomplicated mid-week. It can be tiring being highbrow all the time.
Having judged at a few wine tastings recently, panels should even things out. However, we’re all trying to look for elegant, restrained wines at the moment â€“ sometimes that isn’t what people want.
Itâ€™s a daunting prospect tasting more than 50 Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs before 10am. Then, just when youâ€™ve recovered from the Savalanche haze, youâ€™re assaulted by a blur of 50 super-ripe Aussie Shirazes before lunchtime. And we volunteer to do this!
Before tasting the Sauvignons at Liquorland’s wine show, all 20 judges discussed what we should be looking for: elegance, balance, freshness. Itâ€™s an unusual time of year to be looking at Sauvignon Blanc. Itâ€™s usually judged in October as it falls off the bottling line or at Easter. Yet, itâ€™s probably one of the most useful times to see how those wines are holding up a year after they were harvested. Moreover, these wines are going to be the ones the export market drinks for another six months.
The class we judged was pretty solid (which, was a lot more than we could say for the Chardonnay and Merlot category) although there were more wines than I expected with reduced characters: think burnt match, cabbage, garlic. Not something youâ€™d want in your glass.
Iâ€™m astounded why people enter faulty or tired wines past their best in a competition. Theyâ€™re not going to win anything. Yes, it’s less prevalent than it used to be but it still exists today. So, I asked some winemaker judges why so many people entered their wines to a rigorous judging process. One response was winemakers become too close to their wines and believe they are worthy of a medal; another claimed more wineries are entering competitions because they are desperate to help sales; if they can sneak a silver, itâ€™s going to give them a boost.