PUTTING PALATES TO THE TEST

New Zealand’s next generation of wine judges are being brought up the ranks through a new scholarship offered by one of New Zealand’s largest and most-anticipated wine competitions.

New World has partnered with Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT), to offer two top Viticulture and Winemaking students the opportunity to be selected as Associate Judges in the New World Wine Awards each year.

Jim Harré, Chair of judges for the awards for the past 12 years, said the opportunity will provide a fantastic, but very demanding, learning opportunity for the budding wine experts.

“Tasting beautiful wines all day sounds like the best job in the world – but it’s challenging work when you are set to assess up to 120 glasses each day, over three full days of judging,” said Harré.

The new associates will spend their time tasting and learning alongside 17 senior judges, who together bring more than 200 years of combined experience to the table. They include international judge Nick Bulleid MW from Australia, and top judges from around New Zealand’s wine industry, including wine experts, winemakers and even wine scientists.

The New World Wine Awards programme already includes the unique opportunity for New World team members to be selected as Associate Judges, upskilling their wine knowledge to share with customers and staff.

Harré said the awards’ collaborative approach to judging, where experts taste the wines and then discuss and score them in consultation, is an ideal way for new talent to learn the ropes and broaden their palates.

“And to make it even more interesting – we judge all wines blind, only seeing the wine in the glass alongside the varietal, vintage and country of origin.”

During judging, the students will join in using the internationally recognised 100-point scale, although their trainee-status means their scores won’t count towards the final medal results. The best wines will then be tasted, and re-tasted, by the senior panel to identify the Top 50 wines as well as Champion wines for the show.

“It will be a real perk for the student to then discover which wines actually made it through to the Top 50, when the winning wines go on sale in New World stores around the country later this year.”

Pam Wood, Programme Lead Specialist – Viticulture and Winemaking said NMIT is thrilled to be able to partner with New World for the New World Wine Awards.

“NMIT is committed to delivering a qualification that produces work-ready graduates, who are well connected to the Viticulture and Winemaking industry and are able to apply their theoretical knowledge to their work,” said Wood.

“Being in the heart of New Zealand’s wine country, and with relationships such as this which put our students in touch with experts from across New Zealand and the world, NMIT is the perfect position to enable this industry-linked learning.”

The New World Wine Awards is New Zealand’s most consumer-focused wine competition, aimed at connecting wine loving shoppers with the best quality wines that are both affordable and widely available. To be eligible for a Top 50 spot, a wine must retail for $25 or less and have a minimum quantity available.

Now in its 17th year, the awards are well-recognised within the industry for pairing the rigour of an international-standard wine show with a retail platform that sees the top wines enjoy a measurable lift in sales as a direct result of winning medals.

The challenge is set:

  • The judges will taste and assess 1415 wines from 177 wineries over three days at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
  • The judging panel is comprised of the Chair of Judges, 16 senior judges, and 7 associate judges.
  • Each judge will taste and assess around 120 wines per day.
  • Two trucks containing 26 pallets of wine, glasses and equipment will be shipped in to make it all possible.
  • The stewarding team will put over 5,600 bottles in their correct positions and pour nearly 12,000 glasses of wine. During this time, they will wash each of the 2,800 glasses at least five times!
  • The judge’s sense of smell is vital – so no coffee, perfumes or other strong smells are allowed in the judging room. That also means avoiding meals with strong ingredients like garlic or chilli.
  • Each judge will taste around 120 wines each day, and while they famously spit out the wine, the constant acidity means they use a special toothpaste to protect their tooth enamel.
  • Plain water crackers, still and sparkling water are used to cleanse the palate during judging.
  • To earn a Gold medal (95 points or more) a wine will be tasted at least 19 times by 11 different judges.