The Culture of Wine Drinking and Wine Shows

After six weeks travelling overseas, visiting Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Canada and the USA and tasting the wines of each country, in the respective countries, I have a better appreciation of the huge world of wines and how wine is consumed.

My holiday was not a wine tasting tour and apart from one visit in Greece, no formal winery/vineyard visits were arranged.

Most of my tastings were done casually in tasting rooms or village taverna/cafes encountered along our way.

What struck us particularly in Europe is the lack of puffery surrounding the wine. Even in the villages each little eatery had their own wine brand and the wine could have been made in the underground cellar or just next door.

You chose by variety, rather than brand, in fact quite often the brand wasn’t even mentioned. You also chose by pour; perhaps a glass of wine, or a 250-ml/500-ml/1-litre carafe, or a bottle.

We drank by the glass and encountered wines that were absolutely brilliant to downright awful. Fortunately most café owners let us have a little taste, especially in the Greek tavernas when the wines were simply listed as red, wine or rose. At least one of the three would be ok – even occasionally exceptional.

It’s so different from New Zealand (and the USA and Canada), because unless you are in wine country at a dedicated winery cafe, it is wine brand name and price that are the important selling points – and of course the mark-ups in cafes and restaurants are notorious. Is paying $12 for a glass of wine that costs $12 on special in the supermarket fair?

Individual reports of travelling vinous highlights will follow on my website shortly, but meantime here in New Zealand it is wine show season.

For those of you who follow the gongs, and want to buy only gold medals, my new 2013-2014 wine show summary will help you along. Check it out: - but note it is for New Zealand wines only.

I consider the wine show season for any particular year to start when the first wines from the most recent vintage were entered. This year it was the 2013 Spiegelau International Wine Competition ( judged in Marlborough in June, a competition that is open to wines from both New Zealand and overseas. The 2013 competition attracted 1,075 entries with 69 gold, 160 silver and 431 bronze medals being awarded. New Zealand scooped 51 of the golds.

Matua Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 from Marlborough was awarded Champion Wine of the Show. Trophies were also awarded to the following in their respective classes:

Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2006
Piper Heidsieck Brut
Woollaston Riesling 2012
Johanneshof Cellars Gewürztraminer 2012
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Vineyard Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2010
Johanneshof Cellars Pinot Gris 2012
Forrest Botrytised Riesling 2012
Stanley Estates Stanrock Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Buller Beverford Durif 2010
Crossroads Milestone Series Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2012
Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011
Serafino Sharktooth McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009
Shot in the Dark Cabernet Shiraz 2012
Quinta do Retiro Novo Vintage 2009

The second show this season was the Bragato Wine Awards (, judged at the end of August, also  in Marlborough. This show is run by New Zealand Winegrowers, is only for New Zealand wines, specifically those wines made from grapes grown on the vineyard or vineyards owned, managed, or operated by the entrant. As well, wines from the 2010 vintage onwards must be 100% sustainably grown in accordance with Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.

The 2013 Bragato Wine Awards attracted 495 entries with 51 gold, 107 silver and 181 bronze medals being awarded.

Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 was awarded Champion Wine of the Show. Trophies were also awarded to the following in their respective classes.

Villa Maria SV Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay 2011
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 1 Foundation Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Wither Hills Cellar Release Kerseley Riesling 2012
Thornbury Waipara Pinot Gris 2013
Zephyr Gewurztraminer 2012
Coopers Creek SV Gisborne Albarino Bell-Ringer 2013
Akarua Rose Brut NV
Clearview Black Reef Blush 2013
Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Noble Riesling 2012
Vidal Legacy Series Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009
Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010
Waimea Trev’s Red 2012

After two shows this season, there are 102 New Zealand wines in my 2013-2014 gold medal list.  Only three wines received a gold in both competitions mentioned above. They are:

Ara Select Block K54 Pinot Noir 2012
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 9 Big John Riesling 2012
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2012

My Gold Medal List will continue to be updated as wine show results filter through. Check back on Monday 16th September for the updated list with the results of the 2013 New Zealand International Wine Show.

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