Kurow’s Ostler Wines is continuing with its medal-winning ways, securing gold for its Caroline’s 2018 pinot noir in the prestigious International Wine Challenge (IWC).
The IWC assesses every wine “blind”, and the wines are judged for their faithfulness to style, region and vintage.
This medal is the sixth consecutive gold for the Caroline’s vintage, which is produced only when the grapes are of the best quality, managing director and co-owner Jim Jerram said.
“Because it’s a premium product, and it’s expensive, it’s got to be right up there, and interestingly, when we’ve made that call and the choice, in the seasons we’ve done it . . . it’s paid off.”
Previous medal winners have been from the 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016 seasons, with two of those achieving trophy status.
Mr Jerram said he believed this record of gold awards from such a prestigious panel of evaluators was somewhat unusual, and was a “huge tick of approval for the tiny Waitaki Valley-North Otago wine industry”.
The wine was only one of 17 reds across the country to be awarded gold by the IWC.
Boutique wineries had high costs relative to their production volume, so wines had to be good to make things sustainable, Mr Jerram said.
“There are dozens of possible ways of having your wines evaluated out there, dozens of shows around the world, but the International Wine Challenge has called itself the Oscars of the wine world – and that’s the British world, I guess – for quite a long time, and certainly it’s one of the most prestigious.”
Mr Jerram said the competition seemed to suit wines from the Waitaki Valley, because the style of wine tended to be more savoury and less fruit-driven, due to the limestone and other geographic features.
“Certainly that competition works well for us.”
The decision to produce the Caroline’s was up to winemaker and co-owner Jeff Sinnott, Mr Jerram said.
“It’s got to be up to a certain standard, and if he’s not happy with the quality or the ripeness, the grapes will go into a second tier of pinot noir, which we just call something different,” he said.
A silver lining in what had been a challenging year was that 2020 has been great for the grapes.
“We are expecting our next Caroline’s label, or next vintage, Covid vintage 2020 . . . to be an absolute cracker,” Mr Jerram said.
New Zealand winegrowers were grateful to be deemed an essential service during lockdown, which was during the grape harvest.
“We had an eclectic team of pickers from across the world, who did a fantastic job of keeping safe, keeping each other safe, and doing a very efficient job of picking some wonderful fruit.
“That fruit has been turned into another top vintage. It will be bottled next July.”
Mr Jerram has recently listed Ostler Wines for sale, “testing the waters” to see if there was anybody suitable to take over the business which has been his sole focus for the past 20 years.
“I don’t have a successor, and I need to be looking at someone who can take up the reins.
“We really want the brand to continue because we’re really chuffed with what we’ve done as pioneers in the valley, and it’d be great if someone wanted to come on board with us, or take over.