Wine has always been on show - an agricultural product that has always stood alongside other products like meat and vegetables on display in village fetes and market days, probably since Roman times.

Jim Harre, Chair of Judges, New World Wine Awards

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While I'm sure there was lots of great salesmanship extolling the virtues of the different wine producers, it probably wasn't until the creation of Agricultural shows where produce was judged and awarded prizes for excellence, that wines in particular were spoken of in terms of definable quality.

The most famous wine exhibition held in Paris at the request of Napoleon wines was the 1855 Exposition Universelle where the wines of Bordeaux in France were judged in a quality hierarchal system. This 1855 classification with only one subsequent addition (Ch Mouton-Rothschild) to the top quality group has remained the same through to today.

In more recent times Wine Shows have been created, especially in Australia, United States, South Africa and New Zealand, initially as a way of producers to bench-mark themselves against other wines and wineries. As these shows have evolved, they have added significantly to the increase in quality of wines from these regions.

As you would expect, the awards received have been displayed with pride by the wine producers and customers have used the awards as an indicator of quality when purchasing. It would be fair to say that wineries have also used these awards to help increase sales and in some instances increase prices on excellent wines.

With the large number of Wine Shows in New Zealand and the myriad of award stickers adorning bottles, it can be quite confusing on which wine to choose. Here are a few suggestions:

  • One of the most common misconceptions is, "It has a gold medal sticker - I must like it". The Gold Medal shows that the wine is of excellent quality, showing great varietal typicity and having no technical fault. The only person who is able to say whether you will like the wine is….. you.

    It does give you a great guide to what the variety looks like and if you haven't tried that variety, this would be a good example of it. A good example of this is the Trivento Malbec 2010, which won Gold at the 2011 New World Wine Awards.
  • "Gold Medal wines are always expensive". To achieve the quality of wine necessary for gold medal the wine will have the best quality fruit and wine making behind it, which often translates into a higher price bracket. This however is certainly not always the case, and there are some extremely good examples of reasonably priced gold medal wines. This is where shows such as the New World Wine Awards are superb, as they are designed to provide the consumer with a quality guide to wine which is under $25 retail.

    Great examples of this are Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Villa Maria Cellar Selection Dry Riesling 2010 and the Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz 2009.
     
  • Nearly all wine shows in New Zealand are judged on the International 20 point scale, which allocates 3 points for colour and clarity, 7 points for smell and 10 points for taste and finish. The standard is kept the same for all shows, so a gold medal wine in the air New Zealand Wine Awards or the Royal Easter Show will have been judged to the same standard as a gold medal wine in the New World Wine Awards ( and often by the same judges).

    For a wine to achieve a gold medal, it must score 18.5 or above out of 20 points. Silver medal wines are between 17 points and 18.4 points and Bronze medal are between 15.5 points and 16.9 points. The difference between gold and bronze medals can be as little as 2 pts!

    Try the Wild Rock ''Cupids Arrow'' Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (silver medal) and the Lil Rippa Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 (Gold medal) - both are very good Otago Pinot Noirs which as a consumer is all that really matters.

Use the medal system as a good guide to select quality wines. In the New World Wine Awards 2011 the collective judging experience was over 150 years and as the judges remarked, "We tasted over a thousand wines, so you didn't have to".