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How do we find the Top Drops?

For the 18th year the New World Wine Awards has found the Top 50 drops under $25 and made them available for you to share and enjoy.  

This year 165 wineries entered 1,202 different wines in the 18th annual New World Wine Awards. A focus on affordable and available wines means every entry must retail for $25 or less* and have plenty of stock available. The 50 highest-ranked wines are then sold through New World stores nationwide. 

Jim Harré, Chair of Judges, selected an independent panel of 18 wine experts to judge the wines entered into the competition by wineries from New Zealand and overseas. All wines were blind tasted. This means the judges were never aware of any brands and never saw any bottles. They judged the wine in the glass on the day, knowing only the variety, vintage and country of origin. Each wine was assessed using the same internationally recognised 100-point system used at other leading wine shows, which benchmarks entries against what a perfect wine should be like. A Gold medal wine in these awards is a superb example of its type and you can hold it to the same expectations as a Gold medal wine from other respected awards.  

The integrity of the competition and robust procedures are maintained by Shona White, Chief Steward, who also ensures no judge tastes their own wine entered into the competition. 

For the first time in the competition’s history, judging was split into a series of smaller regional events hosted in New Zealand’s key wine regions. This change was designed to ensure the show could continue safely, and with the same renowned judging rigour, while also working within potential social distancing and travel restrictions. Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago each hosted a judging ‘hub’ where local judges, in panels of three, assessed wines produced in the surrounding areas. Judges at a fourth hub in Auckland also reviewed sparkling, emerging and overseas entries.

The top scoring wines were then sent to a finale event in Auckland where Chair of Judges, Jim Harré, was joined by Senior Judges Sam Kim and Simon Nunns, and Associate Judge Mary-Therese Blair (aka Mermaid Mary). This panel re-tasted the top wines to ensure consistency across the hubs and finalised the Gold medal winners. In a final taste-off, they ranked the Gold medal wines to determine the Top 50 selection and awarded the Champion of each variety.

Planning and executing this year’s judging was a logistical feat: a team of more than 30 people delivered five separate events across the country – 16 days of set-up and eight days of judging, sometimes operating at two locations at once, using more than 2,400 bottles of wine and countless glasses and other equipment. 

At a time when many wine shows are being impacted, New World is proud to have successfully trialled the new judging format, making it possible to celebrate the wine industry’s achievements and ensure the best quality affordable wines in-store.

Jim Harré, Chair of Judges, wrote the tasting notes for the Top 50 wines – using the three judges’ original tasting notes, he then re-tasted the wines and compiled the reviews. As Jim says, “After many days of sniffing, tasting, spitting, robust discussion, re-tasting, more discussing and finally agreeing, we have reached our consensus of the best wines. We enjoyed selecting them and we hope you enjoy your own personal discovery of them”.

* New World Wine Awards Top 50 wines priced at $25 or less until 8 November 2020. After this time the retail price may vary. 


Meet the judges


Auckland finale judging

Jim Harré (Chair of Judges)

Jim Harre’s passion for wine runs in the family – his grandfather, father and brother were all winemakers and his other brother is involved in the wine and food industry in France. Jim has been involved in the New World Wine Awards since 2008, this being his 13th year as Chair of the Judging Panel. He also has extensive experience judging in New Zealand as well as in Australia, China, Japan, UK and the United States. His roles include Panel Chair for New Zealand Winegrowers, Chair of Judges for the China Wineluxe Competition, Chair of Judges for the Victorian Wine Competition in Australia, Chair of Judges for the International Aromatic Wine Show, Panel Chair for the International Wine Challenge in London and San Francisco International Wine Competition and a wine consultant for Air New Zealand. 

Sam Kim

Sam has been involved in the New Zealand hospitality and wine industry for over 30 years. He has more than 20 years’ experience judging for national and global wine competitions and magazines including the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, New Zealand International Wine Show, the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, Decanter Asia Wine Awards, the New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition, Spiegelau International Wine Competition, Marlborough Wine Show and Cuisine magazine. He publishes his own web-based wine magazine, which features reviews of both New Zealand and international wines. 

Simon Nunns

Consulting winemaker Simon is an experienced senior judge and highly sought-after educator and speaker. He features regularly as a judging panellist for Cuisine magazine and has a passion for alternative grape varieties. Simon has worked vintages in the United States and France, in the regions of Oregon, Bordeaux and Burgundy, and was the head winemaker at Coopers Creek Vineyard for over 20 years. Simon was awarded the inaugural Jason Winter Memorial Prize for academic achievement while completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology from Lincoln University.

Mary-Therese Blair (Associate Judge)

Mary is a WSET educated wine writer known by the moniker Mermaid Mary and is on a quest to make wine less alienating and more accessible (and if at all possible, fun). She is the wine writer for Cuisine Magazine, the wine columnist for New Zealand House and Garden and hosts a regular wine slot on MagicTalk radio, as well as occasional appearances on TV3’s The AM Show and The Cafe. When she doesn’t have her nose in a glass of wine, Mary enjoys cooking, gardening and chasing a more sustainable lifestyle.

Auckland judging hub

James Rowan (Panel Leader)

James has been the senior winemaker at Westbrook Winery for the past 15 years, making wine from Matakana, Waiheke Island, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough. He has been a senior wine judge at numerous competitions including the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, New Zealand Wine of Year Awards, Gisborne Regional Wine Awards, the Romeo Bragato Wine Awards, New Zealand International Wine Show and the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. Over the years, James has also shared his passion and knowledge for wine with various New Zealand magazines and trade publications.

Corey Hall

Corey started his 20-plus-year career in winemaking after gaining a BSc in chemistry, geology and physics at The University of Auckland. He has worked as a winemaker in Australia, France, California and New Zealand, where he rose to chief winemaker at Matua Valley. He now makes wine under his own brands Gem and Harwood Hall, and is currently a winemaker for Coopers Creek, Snapper Rock and Ward Valley Estate Wines. Corey has served as a senior judge at the New Zealand International Wine Show, and has judged on tasting panels for Cuisine, Winestate, Wine NZ and Dish magazines.

Simon Fell

Simon has over 25 years of winemaking experience, honed during a career that has seen him work for wineries in Bordeaux, Gers, Oregon, Napa, Chile, Western Australia and New Zealand. In his current role as winemaker for Thornbury in Auckland, Simon enjoys the challenges and vast possibilities of producing a range of varietal wines from New Zealand’s key winegrowing regions. He is a keen outdoorsman and, together with his Californian wife Jacqui, is an avid foodie who enjoys preparing gourmet food and wine dinners for friends and family.

Central Otago judging hub

Olly Masters (Panel Leader)

Olly is currently a winemaker at Misha’s Vineyard in Central Otago, as well as running his own winery/vineyard consulting business, Tripwire Consulting. Olly has formed a reputation as being one of New Zealand’s most prominent winemakers and wine judges, consistently forging some of New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir. With over 30 years’ experience in the industry, Olly has chaired the Romeo Bragato Wine Awards and is a senior wine judge at many wine competitions here and overseas. He is based in Martinborough, where he organically farms two acres of Pinot and Syrah grapes.

Jen Parr

An Oregon native and graduate of Stanford University, Jen has called Wanaka home since 2008. She has extensive international winemaking experience including in the United States, France, South Africa and Australia in addition to 18 harvests in New Zealand. Jen assumed her role as winemaker for Valli Vineyards in 2015 and also makes wine for a handful of other boutique Otago producers.  Jen was recently awarded the 2020 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine NZ Winemaker of the Year. Outside of work, Jen loves skiing, mountain biking, tramping and long walks with her dogs.

Nadine Cross

Winemaker at Peregrine since 2010, Nadine brings experience from France, California and Marlborough to the unique climate of Central Otago. Lured into winemaking by the combination of environment, travel, food and wine, it's a job she loves doing every day – and in one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. For Nadine, winemaking is about learning; being observant and quality focussed in order to let the land and environment speak through the wine, while helping lead a top-flight winemaking team.

Marlborough judging hub

Jane Cooper (Panel Leader)

Jane is a winemaker with 28 years of international experience and her own wine label, Alexia. Winemaking has allowed her to travel across the globe to Chile, the Hunter Valley, Italy and extensively throughout New Zealand. She consults at Ohau Wines on the Kapiti Coast and has just built a small urban winery and cellar door in Greytown in Wairarapa. Jane has previously judged at both the New Zealand Wine of the Year and the New Zealand Aromatic Wine competition and is the chair of judges for the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards.

Kyle Thompson

After studying food science, Kyle began his working life in the dairy industry in microbiology and sensory evaluation. Always passionate about wine, his interest in the industry began in earnest while living overseas. After vintages in Bordeaux and Tuscany, and further winemaking study, Kyle returned to New Zealand and joined Saint Clair Family Estate in 2006. He has a particular affinity for judging here, in his homeland, as it puts his expertise to the test and allows for a first-hand look at the quality and diverse range of New Zealand wines.

Stu Marfell

Stu was born and raised in the Awatere Valley not far from the Vavasour Vineyard. A graduate of Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology, Stu joined Foley Family Wines in February 2003 as assistant winemaker. Stu became chief winemaker in 2007 and was a finalist at the 2008 & 2009 Young Winemaker of the Year Awards.

Simon Waghorn (Panel Leader)

Simon began his winemaking career in 1982, training at Roseworthy College in South Australia. He has been a senior winemaker for 32 years and has judged at all the major New Zealand wine competitions. Simon established his reputation with chardonnay in Gisborne, and now makes a wide range of interesting varieties in Marlborough. Simon is the winemaker and owner of Astrolabe Wines, and his Sauvignon Blanc is considered an industry benchmark.

Jeff Clarke

Jeff is one of Australasia’s most experienced winemakers and wine judges, starting his career in wine in 1976. He has been judging in New Zealand and Australian wine shows for over 30 years, including the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, Liquorland Wine Show, New World Wine Awards and for Cuisine Magazine. He has previously worked as chief winemaker at Ara Wine Estate in Marlborough and as a consulting winemaker at Jackson Estate Wines Ltd.

Michael Bann

Originally from Australia, Michael developed his interest in wine while growing up in the family retail liquor business. He went on to study horticulture and winemaking, and worked vintages around Australia and France before coming to New Zealand in 2006. Michael has been a winemaker at Rapaura Springs since 2012 and at Summerhouse since 2013. He is passionate about Marlborough wines and developing new varieties and styles within the region. He is an experienced wine judge, having participated in all the major wine competitions in New Zealand.

Hawkes Bay judging hub

Kate Radburnd (Panel Leader)

Kate has been making wine for over 35 years and is one of New Zealand’s most lauded winemakers. After receiving an Oenology degree in her native Australia, Kate moved to New Zealand in 1983 to work as a winemaker at Vidal. She joined Pask Winery in 1991 and became winemaker, joint owner and then managing director until 2017. Kate’s established her new winery venture Radburnd Cellars Ltd in September 2017. She was the first female winemaker to become a fellow of New Zealand Winegrowers in 2015 and was inducted into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame in 2019.

Ant Mackenzie

Ant has worked in the New Zealand wine industry for over 25 years, holding various positions including stints as a general manager, wine consultant and wine science lecturer at Eastern Institute of Technology. He is currently working for Hãhã Wine Company as chief winemaker whilst continuing to develop his own wine brands under the Ant Mackenzie Wines banner. He has judged for the New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards, The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards and was recently appointed chief judge of the A&P Hawke’s Bay Wine Awards.

Nick Picone

Nick has been in and around the Villa Maria group for more than 20 years, working as group chief winemaker since 2015. Nick has made wines across New Zealand’s main winegrowing regions and has also completed harvests in Italy and the United States. Nick was the recipient of the Len Evans Tutorial Scholarship in 2004, helping initiate his presence in wine judging. A regular judge in New Zealand wine shows for 15 years, Nick has also judged for Cuisine, Winestate, Dish and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Chief Steward

Shona White

Shona White is highly regarded for her ongoing contribution to the wine and hospitality industries and has performed the vital role of Chief Steward at the New World Wine Awards for 14 years. She has spent over 30 years as a steward, assistant chief steward, chief steward and competition director of many of New Zealand’s most prominent wine shows including the New Zealand Wine of the Year, Air New Zealand Wine Awards and Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. Shona was inducted into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame this year.