How It Began
Neil Charles-Jones was struck by the idea for the New Zealand Riesling Challenge at an wine awards dinner. It struck him that for all the talk of good wines being made in the vineyard, it was the winemaker who always picked up the awards.
The question then couldn't be shaken... what if a group of skilled winemakers made a wine with the same grapes, from one block in one vineyard. Surely this would be a real test of the winemaker's influence on the end product.
The response from winemakers was overwhelming, the challenge accepted, and the competition on.
How it Worked
Four tonnes of grapes from the Mud House "The Mound" vineyard in Waipara Valley were given to each winemaker. All grapes were hand-picked on stalks. Every tenth basket was loaded into a bin, ready for delivery to the individual wineries. Winemakers crushed, pressed, and fermented the grapes in any manner they saw fit, in stainless steel or oak, to produce their best Riesling wine; dry or sweet.
The export certification rules applying to the vintage allow blend additions, provided no less than 85 per cent of the grapes are from the original source. This option allowed the winemakers to introduce a greater degree of complexity.
All winemakers completed and bottled their own wines, producing at least 250 cases of riesling.
These unmarked cases were delivered to the Wineworks bottling plant in Marlborough for labelling and packing into 3000 mixed cases, each case containing 12 bottles, one from each competitor.
Each winemaker has won awards and plaudits for their rieslings. It is intended that the wines will be presented for judging on 19th December 2010.
Case lots of the 12 Riesling Challenge wines will be available for purchase, allowing discerning palates the unique experience of tasting 12 of the country's very best winemakers' interpretations of the Riesling varietal.
50.97 tonnes of riesling grapes were harvested at the Mud House 'The Mound Vineyard' with 108 bins of grapes filled by 5.15pm Friday, April 23 2010, the remaining bins, plus extras filled before the rain arrived on the Saturday. The grapes had been delivered to the wineries by 8am on April 25 2010 and most were crushed that day!