NZ: Winemaker quits judge post in wine batch row

By | 11 December 2006

A top New Zealand winemaker has quit his post as chief judge of the one of the country's top wine competitions.

Wither Hills winemaker Brent Marris has quit despite being cleared of allegations that he created special batches of wine for competition.

Marris came under fire last week after a local wine critic proved that bottles sent to a New Zealand wine magazine for testing differed from those on sale to the public in supermarkets.

On Thursday (7 December), Marris quit his post as chair of judges of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Wither Hills also announced that it would withdraw the wine in question, its 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, from all competitions and return medals already won.

However, industry association New Zealand Winegrowers cleared Marris of the "systematic creation" of the wines for competition.

"Wither Hills accepted that there was a variation in the wines and this was confirmed by scientific analysis. It was then our role to audit the winery's records to ensure that the evidence matched the explanation provided by Mr Marris," New Zealand Winegrowers board chairman Stuart Smith said.

Marris had insisted the variation in wines had occurred inadvertently.

Smith added: "There is a salutary lesson for us all in this matter. Product integrity is paramount. It means that we must continue to maintain standards that are beyond reproach in order to protect the good reputation of our industry."

Sectors: Wine

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