Napier winery Church Road’s 2021 chardonnay named best on the planet

A Napier winery is celebrating a top accolade after its chardonnay was named the best in the world.

Church Road Winery’s 2021 Grand Reserve Chardonnay won the coveted International Chardonnay Trophy at the 2024 International Wine Challenge (IWC) earlier this month.

That trophy is reserved for the best chardonnay at the competition, following blind tasting by an international panel of experts.

The annual awards, based in Britain, have been running for 40 years and are highly regarded by winemakers, attracting entries from about 50 countries across all wine varieties.

Remarkably, Hawke’s Bay wineries have won the best chardonnay award at the competition twice in recent years, with Trinity Hill (based in Fernhill) receiving the accolade in 2022.

The Taradale-based winery’s chief winemaker Chris Scott said he was “absolutely ecstatic” when he learned of the result.

“We’ve been getting some great accolades over the last few years internationally, but I think this is probably the biggest win we have had.”

He said he knew there was going to be a special 2021 vintage when the grapes were ripening in their Tukituki Valley vineyards.

“It pretty much stopped raining in early January and it didn’t rain again until about the end of May [after picking ended].

“It ended up being one of the driest summers on record, and it was warmer than average but it wasn’t super-hot. which is perfect for chardonnay.

“So right from the outset, prior to the vintage going through, we knew that as long as the weather held, we were in for a great year.”

He said Hawke’s Bay was “just in a real sweet spot for chardonnay”.

“This is the second time in three years that a Hawke’s Bay chardonnay has taken this trophy, which is a huge achievement for the region.

“The overall quality of chardonnay coming out of this little corner of the world is incredibly exciting.”

For those wanting to try Church Road’s award-winning drop, it currently retails for $35, and Scott said it would likely sell out fast.

It was released about this time last year and can be ordered through the winery’s website.

Meanwhile, fellow New Zealand winery Kennedy Point Vineyard (Waiheke Island) won the International Syrah Trophy for the best syrah at the competition, highlighting the strength of Kiwi wineries on the world stage.

However, France, Australia and Spain remained at the top of the medal table at the International Wine Challenge.

Church Road Winery, which was founded in 1897, also picked up another award at the competition – the New Zealand Red Trophy for its Church Road 1 merlot.

Last year, Hawke’s Bay became the first wine region in the country and only the 12th in the world to be given the title of a Great Wine Capital.

The Great Wine Capitals’ global network features 12 of the very best wine regions around the globe, including Bordeaux (France), Napa Valley (US), Bilbao (Spain) and Adelaide (Australia).


First published by Hawke’s Bay Today.