London award shines light on NZ

Pegasus Bay winery
Pegasus Bay winery
Anyone who has spent time living and working in London will have heard the announcements on the London Underground to "mind the gap".

At a couple of stations the curvature of the platform can lead to a space between the door and the platform which could swallow up a less than nimble foot.

It was a gap of a different sort which was the premise of a recent tasting event in London billed as "The Judgement of London", part of the London Wine Fair and somewhat of a homage to Steven Spurrier who organised The Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976, pitting the very best of Californian chardonnay and cabernet against their French benchmarks (the upstart Americans famously won).

Nearly 50 years on from the Paris tasting, the goal was to see whether there remains any gap in quality between the finest wines of Europe and their counterparts from the rest of the world.

The tasting co-ordinators Sarah Abbott MW and Ronan Sayburn MS chose 32 wines, pairs of eight whites and eight reds with one each from Europe and the Rest of the World.

These were tasted blind (all masked) under exam conditions by 21 top judges from the United Kingdom, two-thirds of those being either Masters of Wine or Master Sommeliers, all prompted to focus simply on which they thought was the better wine in each pairing rather than trying to guess what each wine might be.

In the final, very tight scoring, Europe pipped the Rest of the World by 2621.5 points to 2604.5 points so just a whisker over 0.5% difference, which may put to bed the notion that the wines of Europe are demonstrably better than the Rest of the World.

More importantly for New Zealand was the award for top white and top wine of the tasting. These were both awarded to 2011 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling which is a fabulous result for the Donaldson family in Waipara and shines a light on New Zealand wines as a whole. The wine retailed for $35 when it was available.

Pegasus Bay marketing manager Edward Donaldson says the family has always made wines that they feel truly reflect the location and each season, as well as their own personal philosophies, rather than being influenced by chasing medals or scores.

"Having our Bel Canto Riesling selected as one of the 16 wines to represent the very best of the new world was humbling enough.

"However, having our wine selected as the best overall wine has left us speechless."

 • Top-scoring white — Pegasus Bay Riesling, Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand 2011

 • Runner-up — Polish Hill Riesling, Grosset, Clare Valley, Australia 2012

 • Top-scoring red — Hermitage Rouge, Jean-Louis Chave, Rhone, France 2012

 • Runner-up — Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France 2009

 • Top-scoring wine — Pegasus Bay Riesling, Bel Canto, Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand 2011

2023 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling

Price RRP $40 
Rating Excellent to outstanding 
Expressive nose, 
gunflint, river stones/
gravel, nectarine and 
apricot revealing 
themselves, then 
mandarin zest. 
Complex. Richly 
textural, real viscosity, 
totally mouth-filling, 
palate weight yet still 
marvellously light on its 
feet. That mandarin 
citrus leads the palate, 
dry honey and nectarine 
in support, a wisp of 
apricot kernel on the 
finish. Fascinating and 

2023 Gibbston Valley Le Maitre Central Otago Riesling

Price RRP $49 
Rating Excellent
Directly following a richer 
style, this nose is more 
delicate, drier perhaps. 
With aeration a nice 
volume of red apple, 
apple skin, citrus, honey 
 and smoke. Texturally 
rich palate  but then the 
racy acidity kicks in allied 
to an attractively chalky 
element. Real lip-
smacking sapidity, power 
yet ethereality; feels like 
there’s much more to 
come here, possibly 

2023 Pegasus Bay Aria Late Harvest Riesling

Price RRP $45 
Rating Excellent 
Struck match, 
spiced honey, a sense 
of depth and weight. 
The honeyed aspects 
flow across the palate, 
with orange, barley 
sugar and marzipan 
yet there’s a deft 
lightness of touch that 
neatly tempers the 
sweetness. Initially 
relatively primary, but 
with time in the glass 
this steps into another 
gear, the texture 
swells and the 
honeyed sweetness 
integrates nicely.