Chardonnay comes up tops at Air New Zealand Wine Awards

by James Wilkinson

A Marlborough Chardonnay has won the top prize at the 2017 Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

The Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016 won the prestigious Air New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show trophy, as well as the Rabobank Champion Chardonnay trophy, at an Art Deco inspired awards dinner in Hawke’s Bay last Saturday night (Nov 25).

Chair of Judges Warren Gibson said the Isabel Chardonnay Marlborough 2016 was a very classy example of the Chardonnay in this year’s competition.

“It has a beautiful balance of components with a rich long finish,” he said. “It’s packed with flavour but still maintains a remarkable lightness on its feet.”

The producer of this champion Chardonnay, Isabel Estate Vineyard, is a pioneering winery in Marlborough and planted their first vineyards in 1980. They also have some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in the region.

Isabel Estate Vineyard Chief Winemaker Jeremy McKenzie says Isabel Estate Vineyard’s philosophy on working the land is simple.

“Respect the soil where the grapes grow and allow the unique characters of each vineyard and variety to be expressed in the final wine.”

The second highest accolade of the evening, the O-I New Zealand Reserve Wine of the Show trophy, went to the Dashwood Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016. This impressive Pinot Noir, made by Chief Winemaker Stu Marfell of Foley Family Wines, also won the JF Hillebrand New Zealand Champion Pinot Noir trophy.

“As with many of the best wines in this class there is perfume and length with elegant tannins and a lingering and powerful finish,” Gibson said.

Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer, Bruce Parton, said the airline is proud to have sponsored the New Zealand wine industry’s official awards for 31 years.

“Through our partnership with New Zealand Winegrowers we are committed to championing the success of the industry right around the world, both through these awards as well as by working together to help grow wine tourism.

“It’s been great to see entries from wineries across the country this year and we’d like to congratulate all the medal and trophy winners.”

Seventeen trophies were announced at the dinner, which was emceed by Jack Tame and Renee Wright. This year’s competition saw over 1,300 wines entered.