Early this year I bought two cases of the 2010 Waipara Riesling Challenge wines at the bargain-basement price of $9.99 a bottle (from www.blackmarket.co.nz). The challenge was an interesting idea: does the grape or the making make most difference? Or, to quote from the Challenge website: “This competition is a world-first in terms of providing a means of establishing the extent to which the winemaker’s individual skills and style can sculpt a given – and matching – batch of grapes into a world-class wine.”
Hand-picked bunches picked from the Mud House ‘The Mound’ vineyard were shipped to 12 top New Zealand winemakers. Each was given free rein to make at least 250 cases of the best wine they could from the four tonnes they received.
Between February and August I tasted each of the wines. It’s certainly not as ideal as tasting each wine blind in a single sitting, but I wanted to be able to enjoy the rest of the bottle after tasting the wine and, while a bottle with a meal is manageable, a dozen certainly isn’t!
Did the Challenge answer the question? Perhaps. All winemakers have options, but Riesling presents so many that winemaking input will clearly outweigh any terroir or site specificity, and the many outcome possibilities may introduce confounding factors for judges, including personal preference (eg, dry v sweet) and internal comparison against internationally-accepted accepted styles (‘It’s not Alsace). Perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc would be a better New Zealand white to try this experiment with? Maybe one day…
Links to the notes follow, as well as links to notes from Raymond Chan and Tom Cannavan who both tasted the wines in a line-up.
Raymond Chan’s notes
Tom Cannavan’s notes