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A red wine from the heart of New Zealand’s pinot noir country has secured its place among the 10 best wines from around the globe in the International Wine Challenge 2021.

The Valli Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 from Central Otago claimed the IWC Sustainable Trophy, also winning the Central Otago Pinot Noir Trophy and being declared New Zealand Red Trophy winner for 2021 after being judged against all other red wines in the country.

Held in London, the International Wine Challenge (IWC) is the world’s most influential, impartial and rigorously-judged wine competition following multiple stages of intensive blind tastings by a panel of leading global experts from across the industry.

Joining wines from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Australia, Austria and Germany in the top ten, judges said they were “delighted to taste a Gibbston Pinot in full flow”.

Valli Wine founder and winemaker Grant Taylor says the trophy focuses further recognition on the quality of Pinot Noirs that the Gibbston region produces.

“This relates particularly to the site we have chosen for Valli as this is the third major international trophy our Gibbston vineyard has taken in its short life,” he says.

“While viticulturists and winemakers are important, all they can ever do is bring out the best in what they have to work with. At the end of the day it’s down to the inherent quality of the vineyard itself.

“It’s tremendously thrilling to be in Otago now to see the vineyards telling their story and even more so to have it listened to and appreciated on the international stage.”

The pioneering Otago winemaker produced the first vintages for many of the region’s well-known labels throughout the 1990’s before concentrating solely on Valli since 2006.

As those vines age and mature, he’s always looking forward to the next vintage. “The wines here will only get better,” he says.

The new trophy will join some significant ‘others’ in the Valli trophy cabinet, including two previous ‘World’s Best Pinot Noir’ awards at major international wine competitions for the Valli Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 and the Crown Range Cellar Grant Taylor Signature Selection Pinot Noir 2013.

The sustainability trophy win has been welcomed by Edwin Massey, NZ Winegrowers General Manager of Sustainability. “This award highlights the passion and commitment of our members to protecting the places that make our famous wines, and demonstrates why the New Zealand wine industry is renowned for being a world-leader in sustainability,” he says.

Valli Wine’s sustainability measures are wide ranging, in the winery, in the vineyard and in packaging, sales and administration. The sustainable ethos across the board is more about what the team at Valli doesn’t do, rather than what it does.

Winery measures include fruit being processed in the region rather than trucked across the country. Eighty percent of winery equipment has been bought second-hand, not for financial reasons but because there’s perfectly good equipment available to use. The winery also chooses not to use energy-heavy temperature control systems such as heating, cooling and filtering to alter the appearance of the wine without any gains in quality.

In the vineyard, Valli operates an equipment share scheme with a neighbour, grazes sheep instead of mowing, and vines are tended and harvested by hand, not by machine. In the office, the mantra is ‘we sell wine, not packaging’, meaning no heavy bottles, superfluous packaging or marketing collateral. Staff work remotely to cut down on travel and CO2 emissions.


Photo above: Valli Wine Importer Valerie Lewis of New Generation Wines accepted the IWC awards trophy in London on behalf of the New Zealand-based team. 

Below: Winemaker Jen Parr (left) and Valli founder Grant Taylor toast their latest international success at the vineyard. Photography by Anna Allen.


Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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