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 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 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 and more sparkling wines, with a noticeable jump in 2020 driven by Prosecco.
New Zealand producers have embraced this trend with over 100 winemakers now making Sparkling wines – several of the best-known and most-awarded brands can be found among this year’s winners. With great sparkling wines, in a whole range of styles, available for less than $20, a glass of bubbles is no longer reserved just for special celebrations.
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.
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.
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.
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 varieties 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!
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!
This little symbol, found on the back label of many New Zealand wines, means a wine has been produced sustainably from grape to glass. It shows the winegrowers and winery have been certified with 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.