Karapiro winemaker Andy Anderson has good reason to feel jubilant over his latest win.
His meticulously-crafted 2014 Takapoto Gibbston Valley Single Vineyard Pinot Noir vintage has won the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) – making it the world’s best Pinot Noir in 2018 and attracting widespread commendation for Takapoto Estate.
It was a second win for the 49-year-old winemaker and Takapoto’s owners Mitch and Kate Plaw.
Last year, Andy took the same trophy for his Takapoto Single Vineyard Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2012. That win was significant in that it was the first competition Andy had entered, and he won it with the first vintage of that particular wine. It also extended a 12-year winning streak for New Zealand wines taking out the IWSC World Pinot Noir trophy.
Adding another frisson of excitement right now is the prospect that this year’s wine might again win him the IWSC New Zealand Producer of the Year Trophy. He won it for Takapoto Estate in 2017 and is a 2018 finalist for the same award. “Every indication is that we’re well in the running for it again this year – we’re very hopeful.”
The London-based IWSC competition is gruelling, a 50-year-old competition dubbed by Andy as the ‘Oscars of winemaking’. The judging process takes around seven months. A wine making it through to the trophy-tasting stage will have been reviewed four times by four different panels of judges; each of those entries undergoes chemical analysis to prove they are what they say they are.
“It’s the most vigorous judging process in the world, by far.”
Last year, Andy described the win as taking the Takapoto brand “from nowhere to the world stage”. Now, with back-to-back wins behind him, he feels he has reached the pinnacle for any winemaker.
“I’m not sure how we’re going to top this,” he said.
Wine has been part of Andy’s world since his early teens, when his father used to allow him to sample German Rieslings from his cellar. He graduated from Lincoln University’s first Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology programme in 1998, then worked in Australia’s Barossa Valley, Spain and London before returning to New Zealand and opening Cambridge Fine Wines with his partner, Nikki Bockmann.
It was there, in 2011, that he met local businessman Mitch Plaw and his wife Kate. Their shared interest resulted in them planting five acres of grapes on the Plaw’s Horahora property. Andy made a couple of wines for them out of there, but the lure of Central Otago was strong, and subsequently saw him re-connect with a former university classmate and by then co-owner of Te Kauwhata’s Invivo Wines, Rob Cameron. They have been collaborating in the production process ever since.
So, while the grapes behind those award-winning vintages are grown in Central Otago – the first at Legends Terrace Bannockburn, the second at Cox’s Vineyard Gibbston Valley – and Andy remains intimately involved in every process of the winemaking, from the vine to the oak, it is at Invivo Wines that the magic takes place.
Andy’s winning streak has elicited high praise from IWSC general manager Adam Lechmere. He said to win two golds and two trophies one year, and a trophy the next was a “huge endorsement, and proof that Andy Anderson is a winemaker of rare and consistent skill”.
Andy and Nikki, plus the Plaws, are headed to London to collect the awards this month. There is a certain poignancy around this year’s win as Andy battles a cancer diagnosis that came through during the winter months.
But with characteristic optimism, he remains positive about his own future and that of his much-loved wines. “It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ … I know there are wonderful plans in place.”