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Published:  23 July, 2008

Villa Maria, New Zealand's largest independent wine company, scooped eight of the 18 awards, including the Champion Wine of the Show Trophy, in the country's most prestigious wine competition, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Held in Blenheim, Marlborough, last Saturday (12 November), Villa Maria dominated proceedings with its 2003 Reserve Pinot Noir winning Wine of the Show and Champion Pinot Noir, and its 2003 Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay winning Reserve Wine of the Show and Champion Chardonnay. It also picked up the trohies for Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Merlot and other red varieties' (a Malbec). The top Sauvignon Blanc was the 2004 Amor-Bendall from Ginsburg, while the champion export white wine' was the 2004 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc (no award for an export red). Matthew Jukes, the Daily Mail's wine writer and one of the two international judges at the awards, paid tribute to the quality of the judges and the judging - even the people pouring were winemakers'. Asked about any concerns that he had, Jukes told Harpers: There were worries that some of the young vine fruit may devalue New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc brand, and there were concerns that the Pinot Noirs may be over-oaked. But the core percentage of these wines, in these world-leading categories for New Zealand, was absolutely amazing.' Jukes singled out New Zealand Syrahs as demanding serious attention as beautiful, medium-weight Rhne-style wines'. Chairman of the judges, Brent Marris, outlined the competition highlights as the handling of oak and malolactic characters in the Chardonnays, and the improving quality of the Bordeaux blends, Syrahs and Pinot Noirs. His main concern was that too many wines under screwcap where showing sulfides. All of the 18 winners were screwcapped wines.