Record Gold Medals Awarded in 2009 Air New Zealand Wine Awards

11 November 2009

  • More than 100 gold medals awarded for first time in Awards history
  • Sustainable medals nearly double 2008 figure
  • Remarkable quality across the board, say judges

A record number of gold medals have been awarded in this year’s Air New Zealand Wine Awards, with 102 gold medals awarded across 14 wine varietals.

This is the first time in the competition’s almost 30-year history that more than 100 gold medals have been awarded. In the 2008 competition 91 gold medals were awarded.

Pinot Noir was the varietal awarded the most gold medals this year, receiving 19 medals, followed by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, receiving 18 and 13 gold medals respectively.

Organised by New Zealand Winegrowers, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards is the country’s most prestigious wine competition. This year’s competition saw 1,655 wines entered from the country’s 10 key winegrowing regions. As well as the record gold medal haul, 251 silver medals and 387 bronze medals were awarded by the 26-strong judging panel.

The 112 ‘pure’ medals, which are awarded to sustainable wines, is nearly twice the number awarded in 2008, signalling the New Zealand wine industry’s increasing commitment to sustainable wine production. The total is made up of 10 pure gold medals, 38 pure silver medals and 64 pure bronze medals. (58 ‘pure’ medals were awarded in 2008).

New Zealand Winegrowers global marketing director Chris Yorke said reaching 100 gold medals is a significant milestone for the competition.

“The Air New Zealand Wine Awards sticker is extremely well recognised as a sign of quality and guides wine buying decisions for consumers nationwide and internationally,” Mr Yorke said.

“All wines entered are judged against international standards and this year New Zealand wineries have produced more gold medal-winning wines than any other year. The results are an international endorsement of the quality of our wine.

“The classes that New Zealand is renowned for, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have continued to perform at an extremely high level, and other styles such as Gewurztraminer and Dessert Wine are impressing the judges more and more each year.”

Air New Zealand’s Deputy CEO, Norm Thompson, said the significant increase in pure medals awarded this year is extremely encouraging.

“Air New Zealand is dedicated to showcasing New Zealand wines internationally, and is the largest single server of New Zealand wines in the country,” Mr Thompson said.

“It is important for New Zealand’s winegrowers and producers to be seen as leading the way in sustainability. It can be a significant point of differentiation on the international market.”

Chris Yorke agrees that it is important for wine producers to focus on their environmental credentials, and this is reflected in it being a major focus for the awards.

“Pure gold, pure silver and pure bronze medals for sustainable wines were introduced three years ago and we’re always looking for ways to make the Awards programme more sustainable,” Mr Yorke said.

This year the Air New Zealand Wine Awards has successfully achieved carboNZeroCertTM certification.”


For the second year running, Pinot Noir was the varietal awarded the most gold medals. The number of gold medals awarded to Chardonnay increased from 15 gold medals in 2008 to 18 gold medals this year.

Sauvignon Blanc was awarded 13 gold medals, and the number of silver medals increased from 34 to 53, illustrating the higher overall quality of the 2009 vintage.

The Gewurztraminer and Dessert Wine Style classes showed a significant increase in gold medals awarded, both increasing from four to seven gold medals this year.

Judges comments

Chair of judges Steve Smith (MW) said this year’s competition was characterised by exceptional quality across a wide range of varietals.

“This was truly a ground-breaking competition, with remarkable quality shown right across the board,” Mr Smith said.

“Judges were briefed to be very demanding when awarding gold medals, so achieving a record number of gold medals is a solid indication of the quality of wines entered this year.”

Mr Smith said the real highlights of the competition were the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay classes, which were “truly spectacular”, along with an impressive 2009 Sauvignon Blanc vintage.

“Riesling and Gewurztraminer also performed extremely well, and the full-bodied red wines made from Syrah and the Bordeaux red varieties are now truly world-class across a number of producers,” Mr Smith said.

“The quality of a country’s red wine is always a symbol of a country’s place in the world of wine, and the results in the red wine classes this year demonstrate the enormous potential of New Zealand’s red wine varietals.”

International judge John Avery (MW), who first judged the competition in 1978, said there have been huge changes to the competition since the first time he judged it.

“There have been significant positive changes in the quality and the number of wines entered, and I particularly enjoyed seeing a new generation of judges on the judging panel,” Mr Avery said.

Air New Zealand Wine Awards dinner and results

The full medal results from the 2009 Air New Zealand Wine Awards are available from today at

The trophy results will be available after the Awards dinner on Saturday 21 November 2009. New Zealand Winegrowers and Air New Zealand will host around 700 guests in Christchurch at a black-tie gala dinner.

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 Boulcott Street Bistro in Wellington; Peter Gordon from dine by Peter Gordon and Bellota in Auckland; and The Providores and Tapa Room in London; and Geoff Scott from Vinnies Restaurant in Auckland.

carboNZero (CertTM) certification

This year the Air New Zealand Wine Awards has successfully achieved carboNZero certification.

This means that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the event have been measured and reduced, and the remaining unavoidable emissions have been offset by purchasing verified carbon credits from credible New Zealand projects.