New Zealand wine drinkers are more likely than ever to be popping a cork in celebration of the 2020 New World Wine Awards Top 50 announced today, as sparkling wines emerge as the big winners and latest consumer trend.
Chair of judges Jim Harré said insights from the 18th annual New World Wine Awards show the movement towards sparkling wine in New Zealand, which has been bubbling away over recent years, is now really taking off.
The highly-regarded competition has a unique consumer focus – all entries must retail for under $25 and have enough bottles available to meet the demands of thirsty shoppers in New World stores nationwide. The Top 50 wines are determined by an independent panel of experts who ‘blind’ taste the entries to international wine show standards.
“Entries to the sparkling class were up more than 30 percent this year to well over 100 wines, a good indicator of growing consumer demand and winemakers’ eagerness to have their wines recognised,” said Harré.
“And they delivered – 2020 was a stunning year for overall quality, but the judges were delighted over the range and excellence in the sparkling class in particular.”
This year’s Top 50 includes six sparkling winners, four New Zealand made wines and two Italian Prosecco: Lindauer Vintage Series Brut Cuvée 2017 (Champion sparkling wine), Lindauer Vintage Series Rosé 2017, Morton Estate Brut, Verde Brut , Cinzano Prosecco D.O.C. and Graham Norton's Own Prosecco.
It’s also the first time in the awards’ history that Prosecco has made the list, and Harré says this is another signal that the wine, which has taken international markets like the UK by storm, is about to sweep New Zealand.
Foodstuffs North Island merchandise manager for liquor Chris Anderson agreed, as sales data shows New Zealanders are now reaching for bubbles and flutes more than ever before, choosing sparkling and Prosecco wines over others.
“So far this year, sales of sparkling wines have grown more than 10 per cent over the same period last year, and Prosecco sales have skyrocketed by more than 40 percent.”*
And it’s a figure that is only set to grow as New Zealand enters the peak season for sparkling wines between October and December, when more than a third of sales of the style are made.
Harré puts the shift towards sparkling down to a change in the way consumers choose to pair wines and occasions. “A few decades ago, we may have only had a sparkling wine during a wedding toast, and it would have been from overseas. Today however, it is no longer reserved only for those big events, but smaller gatherings and everyday occasions!
“At the same time, the range available is growing, and New Zealanders are recognising that you don’t need to break the bank to pick-up a top-quality bottle of bubbles.”
He notes four of the winning sparkling wines are made using the traditional bottle fermented process and the classic Champagne grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “These are spectacular wines and absolute bargains, all in the $16 and under price range.” Something he says is especially true for the two vintage winners – the grapes were picked and processed in 2017 to make these wines and are now aged to perfection.
Meanwhile the two Proseccos are all about the vibrant fruit flavour of apples, pears and honeydew melon. “Both our winners are flawless in their style, one completely dry and other with a touch of sweetness, so there is something to suit every taste.”
Exploring new wines with confidence
The hotly anticipated Top 50 list includes a wide range of Gold-medal wines, from classic favourites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, to an increasing number of ‘emerging wines’ like Albariño, Malbec and Tempranillo.
All are available in New World stores nationwide from Monday 5 October. The wining wines are all priced under $25, and more than 20 of the Top 50 wines are available for under $15.
Harré said consumers can explore the list with confidence thanks to a thorough judging process, run to exacting international standards.
This year an independent panel of 18 experts, chaired by Harré, assembled across four regional hubs in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago to judge more than 1200 wines entered from around New Zealand and overseas.
“The entries were tasted and re-tasted through a blind judging process. This means the judges assess only the wine in the glass on the day and are never aware of brands. Medals were awarded using the same 100-point scale as other wine shows and a final round of tasting determined the 50 best wines.
“The result is a highly sought-after list that helps remove the guesswork and stress from choosing a great bottle of wine, and opens up the opportunity to try something new, with confidence.