What an amazing year we’ve had leading up to the 2020 New World Wine Awards. Find out the judges hot picks and the big wine trends in wine this year.
The ‘lockdown vintage’
Vintage refers to the year that the grapes were harvested – and the 2020 vintage was memorable for more reasons than one. Many regions experienced near perfect growing conditions and there was lots of excitement about the quality and volume of the pending harvest.
Then came COVID-19, with New Zealand’s Level 4 lockdown coinciding with this incredibly critical time in the winemaking calendar.
What could have been a disaster turned into a triumph in ingenuity and productivity. Operating as an essential industry, grapes were harvested by small teams who often lived onsite and retained their “bubble” for the duration of the harvest, while small winemaking teams did the same.
Wines tasted so far from the 2020 vintage have been amazing, with great weight, concentration and texture. There are 16 new vintage wines in the Top 50 – all early wines in the Aromatic, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Rosé classes, and with a large number of different types of wines yet to be released, there’s still so much to look forward to.
New Zealand consumers are falling in love with Sparkling wines. No longer limited to the traditional Champagne varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, now Spanish Cavas, Italian Proseccos, Moscatos and Asti Spumante are also soaring in popularity. We’re following a trend that’s been happening in the UK for some time, particularly with Italian sparkling wines. Between 2006 and 2016 New Zealanders tripled their consumption of French Champagne to 1.36 million litres and between 2014 and 2016 total imported sparkling wines doubled! Since then, consumers are choosing more with a noticeable jump in 2020 driven by Prosecco.
New Zealand producers have embraced this trend with over 100 winemakers now making bubbles – several of the best-known and most-awarded brands can be found among this year’s winners. With a whole range of styles available for less than $20, a glass of bubbles is no longer reserved just for special celebrations.
Related article: read our Sparkling Wine Guide.
Not too many years ago, New Zealand red wines were regarded as the poor cousin to the big rich reds from Australia. That changed when consumers discovered New Zealand’s gorgeous Pinot Noir, and now we‘re in the midst of another quiet revolution: Syrah. New Zealand, particularly the Hawkes Bay, produces beautiful, rich and elegant Syrah wines. Made from the same grape as Shiraz, this is another area where New Zealand is punching above its weight.
Hawkes Bay Syrah wines have recently been awarded Best Syrah in the World and Best Red Wine in the World at the prestigious International Wine Challenge in London, and we’re seeing them take top spots in the New World Wine Awards year after year.
Looking for an award winning Syrah?
This Syrah has great weight and concentration with youthful fruit purity – plums, blueberry and a touch of black pepper. A very polished and complete wine.
Hauntingly floral with a charming play between black and blue fruit. The palate is succulent and silky with great structure. A complete package displaying interesting maturity for a youthful wine.
Rosé keeps rising
Rosé is a style of wine, so it can be made from any grape variety as long as it ends up pink! New Zealand, compared to Europe, was slow to embrace this style, but boy have we made up for that! Rosé is now one of the fastest growing categories of wine sold here.
Related article: read our Rose Wine Guide
With the excellent 2020 vintage, the number of very good Rosé wines being released is mind boggling; wineries are developing different styles and consumers are spoilt for choice. This year also saw an increase in the types of Rosé entering the New Zealand market and the awards results. Grape varieties like Pinot Meunier (a grape closely associated with the production of Champagne) and a lower alcohol Moscato (with a decadent slightly fizzy lift) are just two on offer this year.
Looking for an award winning Rose?
Delicate strawberry aromas reveal a vibrant palate, beautifully textured acidity and a long delicate finish.
This is a wine that’s graceful and light on its feet. Very pretty pink colour, flavours of strawberries with an underlying creamy texture.
Perfumed, vibrant fruit, a touch of sweet with beautifully balanced acid and enough sparkle to carry the long pure finish.
The new wines on the block
Most of the wine produced in New Zealand is exported, and the overwhelming majority (nearly 90%!) is Sauvignon Blanc.
Other wine varietals are most likely to be sold and consumed in the domestic market, so it’s a huge act of faith for a winemaker to introduce a new, lesser known grape variety to their range. They must be able to make these wines well and convince New Zealanders they are both delicious and easy to pronounce!
Related article: read our Sauvignon Blanc Wine Guide
But that’s exactly what’s happening: we’re benefiting from a number of producers growing and making wines like Viognier, Albariño (pronounced ‘alba-reen-yo’), Gewürztraminer, Tempranillo and Malbec, all which feature in the Top 50.
These are grape varieties that are well known internationally, are well suited to both our climate and soil and have producers and consumers very interested. So, if you haven't yet tried a glass of the white wine Albariño, with its textured floral, peach and rock melon aromas along with its beguiling touch of salinity on the finish, then you are missing something special. Give it a go!
Looking for an award winning aromatic wine?
Pristine aromas of nice green lime zest and delicate white flowers, there’s a delightful fineness, accenting the crisp acidity.
This Riesling is dry with beautiful grapefruit marmalade flavours and is both focused and youthful with juicy lemony acidity and texture.
A mouthful of a name, but the wine is absolutely fantastic! Just call it “ga-vertz” and they'll know what you mean.
Lower alcohol wines growing in popularity
Wines with lower alcohol levels (less than 10% by volume) continue to grow in popularity driven largely by the wellness movement. A report by IWSR suggests that sales of no-alcohol wine and low-alcohol wines are set to grow by 13.5% and 5.6%.
With the quality of low-alcohol wines increasing year-on-year, you really don’t have to sacrifice taste and flavour for less alcohol and calories.
New Zealand’s organic wine growth
Both here and around the world, more wine drinkers want to know that the vino in their glass is organically and sustainably produced.
Alcohol research company IWSR predicts that sales of organically produced wine will reach one billion bottles by 2022, a big increase in consumption from the 676 million sold in 2018.
In New Zealand, organic wine-making means no synthetic chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and cooperating with nature where possible. It’s a growing wine trend, with more than 10% of New Zealand’s wineries certified organic, and many more part-certified or working towards certification.
Look for these symbols on the back of the wine label certified organic wine.
Amisfield Pinot Noir
Bright and perfumed aromatics. A plush and red-fruited palate. Soft, approachable tannins. Proudly named Organic Winery of the Year at the NZ Organic Wine Awards.
Tohu Sauvignon Blanc
A unique expression with aromas of passionfruit, fresh citrus, and currant-leaf. Tohu is also a carboNZero accredited winery, meaning they’re not adding any carbon to the environment.
For wine that has been sustainably produced from grape to glass, look for the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand symbol.
It shows the winegrowers and winery have been certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, the industry’s world-leading sustainability programme covering areas like soil, water, waste, climate change and people. ,
Find out more at www.nzwine.com/sustainability.
What next for New Zealand’s wine industry?
Who knows what 2021 has in store? Could a combination of interrupted shipping lines and a rising trend of supporting local Kiwi businesses mean huge growth for our wineries?
New Zealand produces a stunning range of wine. If you want to expand your horizons and try something new, read our Guide to Wine Varietals.
A wine trend that’s always in style is tasting the latest vintages as they are released. For the best wines available right now, check out the 2020 winners of the New World Wine Awards.