New Zealand’s top-quality wines recognised with announcement of Air New Zealand Wine Awards medal winners

12 November 2008

  • Pinot Noir awarded most gold medals for the first time
  • 14 varietals awarded gold medals – diversity and quality of New Zealand wine demonstrated
  • Riesling awarded 11 gold medals

Pinot Noir has been awarded 21 gold medals at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards – the most gold medals awarded to a single varietal this year.

A total of 91 gold medals have been awarded across 14 different wine varietals, with the quality of this year’s Pinot Noir lineup a highlight for the judging panel.

Riesling also impressed the judging panel, and a record 11 gold medals were awarded to wines of this varietal.

Organised by New Zealand Winegrowers, the 2008 Air New Zealand Wine Awards attracted a record 1,751 entries from New Zealand’s 10 winegrowing regions. In addition to the 91 gold medals awarded, the 26-strong expert judging panel chaired by Steve Smith, Master of Wine (MW), awarded 239 silver medals and 399 bronze medals.

In the Sustainable category, introduced last year, a total of seven pure gold medals were awarded, all of which will now also vie for the prestigious Bell Gully Champion Sustainable Wine Trophy. Nineteen pure silver and 32 pure bronze medals were also awarded in the Sustainable category.

Of the seven pure gold medals, five were awarded to wines from the Hawkes Bay region.

The Air New Zealand Wine Awards trophies, including the overall Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show Trophy, the Bell Gully Champion Sustainable Wine Trophy and the elite gold medal winners, will be announced at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards gala dinner in Wellington on Saturday 22 November.

New Zealand Winegrowers’ global marketing director, Chris Yorke, said the number of varietals achieving gold medals this year demonstrates that New Zealand winemakers are increasingly producing word-class wines across an exciting and diverse range of varietals.

“It’s exciting to see Pinot Noir awarded a record number of gold medals this year, and aromatic varietals such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer continuing to perform strongly.”

“The Air New Zealand Wine Awards celebrates winemaking excellence in New Zealand, and the high number of gold medals awarded to wines from all around the country this year reflects that.”
International judge, Nick Stock, who also judged the competition in 2004, said he was impressed by the high standard of the entries this year.

“New Zealand excels at delivering wines that are direct and appealing. I’ve seen a huge increase in the quality of Syrah since 2004, however the line-up of Pinot Noir across a range of regions was a highlight for me.

Chair of judges, Steve Smith, MW, said that the Pinot Noir category was the highlight of the awards with 21 gold medals.

“Represented by two exceptional vintages in 2006 and 2007, the Pinot Noir entered this year was impressive. With gold medals awarded to wines from the Auckland, Wellington/Wairarapa, Marlborough and Otago regions, we are beginning to see great regional and sub-regional expression, and a real willingness from winemakers to stretch the winemaking boundaries,” Mr Smith said.

Sauvignon Blanc also performed strongly, picking up 13 gold medals.

“Marlborough continued to dominate the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, and the 10 gold medals awarded to 2008 Marlborough are as good as ever. It’s also pleasing to see two wines from Nelson and one wine from Waipara achieving gold medal status.”

Other highlights

Syrah, Riesling and Chardonnay were standout varieties, with 8, 11 and 15 gold medals respectively.

Mr Smith said the eight gold medals awarded to Syrah is an impressive result, and the breadth of quality is also showing with a high number of silver and bronze medal wines.

“If the last two shows are an indication, Syrah is about to become a key feature of New Zealand’s prestige red wine offering, alongside Pinot Noir.”

Mr Smith said this varietal shows remarkable regional diversity, with gold medals awarded across five regions.

“This is a spectacular result, particularly for the 2006 and 2007 vintages, which were awarded seven gold medals. The winning wines show the enormous potential Riesling has when made from carefully-selected vineyards with sensitive winemaking and a very clear definition of style.”

“These are serious world-class wines, and in a variety with so much diversity in expression, the judges have awarded gold medals across a number of styles. This variety also demonstrates regional diversity, with four regions awarded gold medals.”

Air New Zealand Wine Awards dinner and results
The full medal results from the 2008 Air New Zealand Wine Awards are available from today at and

The trophy results will be available from midnight on Saturday 22 November 2008.
New Zealand Winegrowers and Air New Zealand will host 800 guests in Wellington at a black-tie gala dinner where guests will taste the trophy wines accompanied by a six course menu designed by Air New Zealand’s team of Consultant Chefs including Rex Morgan from Citron Restaurant in Wellington; Peter Gordon from The Providores and Tapa Room in London and dine by Peter Gordon and Bellota in Auckland; Geoff Scott from Vinnies Restaurant in Auckland; and Shannon Wrightson, Former Executive Chef at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, Canada.