Top 50 acclaim great publicity

Winemaker Eliana Leal demonstrates how to blend wines during this year’s Central Otago Young...
Winemaker Eliana Leal demonstrates how to blend wines during this year’s Central Otago Young Winemaker competition. PHOTO: RUBY SHAW
The 2023 New World Wine Awards Top 50 launched to much fanfare in early October: to recap, this competition is focused solely on wines selling for $25 or less. Co-chairs Jen Parr and Sam Kim oversaw a panel of 15 wine judges to taste through more than 1200 entries, whittling that down to the Top 50 which get to wear the coveted gold medal sticker.

You have to feel for the more than 95% of entries that didn’t quite make the cut, but for the Top 50 winners it is fantastic brand recognition and sales for their wines across the country, while for consumers that gold medal is a reassuring tick of confidence when you are faced with a sea of wines on the shelves.

The Zero category, of wines below 0.5% alc, saw a significant uptick in entries with roughly 50 wines being judged this year. Gold medals remain elusive with just bronzes awarded, reminding me that this category remains a work in progress. A selection of "recommended wines" will be promoted in selected stores.

The NWWA people sent me the trio of wines reviewed here to sample, a quality-assurance test if you like: I was heartened by the results of the tasting.

Central Otago Young Winemaker of the Year

The 2023 Tonnellerie de Mercurey Central Otago Young Winemaker of the Year competition was held at Vinpro in Cromwell in September. Contestants undertook various challenges including laboratory and tasting skills, wine industry knowledge, creating a white wine blend for marketing panel review, also an interview with industry leaders and a speech at the dinner, held at Carrick Estate.

Congratulations to Eliana Leal from Amisfield: this year’s winner. Further congratulations to the second and third place winners Paiqi Oscar Cau, also from Amisfield, and Callum Scarborough from Felton Road.

As well as her prize package, Eliana represented Central at the national finals which were held last week in Canterbury, and picked up a section prize for her presentation on AI in the wine industry and laboratory skills. Well done!


2021 Squawking Magpie The Chatterer Hawke’s Bay Syrah

Price Promo $21.99
Rating Excellent

Spicy, peppery 
influences, minerality, 
graphite, fruit neatly in 
support. Vibrant & juicy 
in the mouth, crunchy 
tannins, nicely balanced 
and integrated offering 
lovely drinkability yet I 
suspect some potential 
too. Cranberry, red 
fruits, earthy touches, 
smoke & char with 
aeration, elegance rather 
than a ball-tearer with 
layers of flavour. 
Complexity here.


2021 Grant Burge Miamba Barossa Shiraz

Price Promo $20.99
Rating Excellent

Noticeably generous on 
the nose, berry 
compote, oak spices 
fragrance growing. 
Richness yet not overly 
sweet, offering berry 
jam, blackberry, spices, 
oak seasoning and lead 
pencil with a good 
structural backbone 
that adds a grainy, 
chewy aspect to the 
attractively dry finish. 
Richness, serious, 
equally at home on its 
own or with food.


2019 Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Barossa Shiraz

Price Promo $17.99
Rating Very Good to Excellent

Ripe fruit jumps out of 
the glass, mixed 
berryfruits, darker fruits, 
chocolate, tilled earth & 
savoury nuances. 
Nicely creamy 
mouthfeel before the 
tingly acidity kicks in 
lending zesty vibrancy, 
while the tannic 
backbone also plays its 
part. Dried cherry, 
choc-orange, full of 
flavour and generosity, 
showing more of the 
typical Aussie fruit 
sweetness as it opens.