A bumper crop of 24 new Potential Classics, 18 new Classics and 8 new Super Classics are the features of this year’s closely revised list of New Zealand wine classics.
What is a New Zealand wine classic? It is a wine that in quality terms consistently ranks in the very forefront of its class. To qualify for selection, each label must have achieved an outstanding level of quality for at least three vintages; there are no flashes in the pan here. By identifying New Zealand wine classics, my aim is to transcend the inconsistencies of individual vintages and wine competition results, and highlight consistency of excellence. When introducing the elite category of Super Classics, I restricted entry to wines which have achieved brilliance in at least five vintages (compared to three for Classic status). The Super Classics are all highly prestigious wines, with a proven ability to mature well (even the Sauvignon Blancs, compared to other examples of the variety).
The Potential Classics are the pool from which future Classics will emerge. These are wines of outstanding quality which look likely, if their current standards are maintained or improved, to qualify after another vintage or two for elevation to Classic status. All the additions and elevations on this year’s list are identified by an asterisk.
Some wines on the classics list are not reviewed every year. If a wine is not currently on sale, this generally reflects a lack of favourable weather in recent vintages.
A few producers praised by some critics have not sent samples in recent years, despite regular invitations, and so have not been considered for inclusion on the list of New Zealand wine classics. These include Bell Hill, Escarpment, Kusuda, Marisco, No 1, Schubert and TWR.
Every wine critic finds some producers escape their nets – no matter how widely and often they are cast. Some of these wineries went quiet after reviews were less enthusiastic than they may have anticipated; others may be wary of truly independent reviewers.