Starting a new wine competition at a time when there are already more than you can shake a stick at, could well have been viewed as ridiculous – and by some it was. But if a show can offer an important point of difference and therefore add value – there is undoubtedly an opportunity for the industry to benefit.
Brand Marlborough and arguably brand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has been and will continue to be a terrific selling point in today’s global wine markets – particularly in those that are still immature. For more dynamic markets, we need to feed the demand for more compelling stories in order to keep them intrigued.
While reinventing Marlborough or Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, chiselling down to the next level of the Marlborough story is not. It’s about embracing what we do, learning from it and expanding on it. That’s the platform that the Marlborough Wine Show wishes to provide. Sub-regions and style diversity add huge value to the Marlborough story and while they have always been part of the script, they have yet to be in the spotlight. This new wine show is switching on the spotlights.
Wine producers and their distributors can look forward to a time when the gate-keepers will list not just one or two Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, but one or two from the Awatere, plus from the Wairau or Southern Valleys as well. More opportunities for more listings due to a compelling story. To accurately represent Marlborough to their client base, they will need more than just a couple of generics.
Conceived, owned an organised by an independent company and working from a clean slate, the Show can morph into whatever is required in order to add value and be relevant to Marlborough’s wine industry. With 424 entries in this first year from 44% of the region’s registered producers, it has got off to a very strong start.
Judging was carried out by vintage and sub-region for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, with the older wines judged by all three panels. All the panels also looked at the ‘emerging styles’ Sauvignon Blanc. Aromatics were judged by vintage based on the level of rs. Again, the older wines were poured for all three judging panels.
Special glasses were used to showcase the wines based on their style – Spiegelau Burgundy glasses for the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, an aromatics glass for the aromatic varietals and flutes for the sparkling. This also added value for the judges whose feedback was very positive.
Finally, it’s not all about nepotism as one non-entering wine producer felt. Bringing outside judges including Ben Edwards, President of the Australian Sommeliers Association on board as a judge not only gave key players a more in-depth look at Marlborough, it also opened the event up for scrutiny.
The industry tastings after both days’ judging gave local winemakers the chance to benchmark wines with their peers. Following the tasting on the second day, all bottles not required during the judging process (though the Show only requests three bottles per entry) were auctioned off. Proceeds in the region of $4,500 will be returned to the Marlborough industry via a Charitable Trust set up by Wine Competition Ltd, specifically for this purpose. The company’s other event, the Spiegelau International Wine Competition raised in the region of $12,000 in June for the Trust – again, earmarked for industry development.
Dr John Forrest receiving the trophy for Champion Riesling 2009 and older from Margaret Cresswell of Wine Competition Ltd.
This article was written for Winepress, Marlborough’s official wine industry publication