Having just returned from tasting more than 1000 wines as a judge at the 2012 Spiegelau International Awards in Marlborough, Hawke's Bay winemaker Barry Riwai is set to exercise his tastebuds at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards in November.
Mr Riwai, who has been a winemaker at Clearview Estate Winery since 2005, said when he received an invitation to be part of the judging crew he was "tickled pink" - but then he began to think about it a little more and said the prospect was slightly daunting.
"It's a real honour," he said as he contemplated becoming part of the judging team, and the huge range of wines that would be placed before them.
At last year's Air New Zealand Wine Awards 1489 wines were judged for medals and trophy honours.
The number is expected to be the same this year.
Mr Riwai had worked as a steward at the awards several times in recent years, and along with appointments to various award judging panels locally and overseas, credits that with attracting the attention of Air New Zealand Awards chairman of judges and Master of Wine Michael Brajkovich.
He will be one of 10 associate judges involved in the blind tastings of the wines entered, and will be supported by three international judges and 13 industry seniors - including Warren Gibson from Trinity Hill and Rod Easthope, formerly of Craggy Range and now producing wines for his own Easthope Winegrowers label.
Clearview co-founder, owner and winemaker Tim Turvey said Mr Riwai's judging experience benefited the winery's customers.
"Barry's judging allows him to assess different trends and styles happening within winemaking and Clearview's standing against our peers. In a word - it keeps us honest." Fellow owner and business founder, Helma van den Berg agreed and supported his expanding judging career.
"The trickle down and industry benchmarking is of huge benefit to our winery team and the company in general."
Mr Riwai's formal introduction to wine began in 1997, when he completed the Certificate in Grapegrowing and Winemaking at Hawke's Bay's Eastern Institute of Technology.
After becoming hooked on winemaking he continued his studies at EIT and graduated with a Bachelor of Wine Science.
He has also worked at Ngatarawa Wines, Church Road Winery and as a flying winemaker in the Loire and Bordeaux in France.
In his judging portfolio he has been an associate judge at the Royal Easter Wine Awards, Spiegelau International, Bragato and Australia's leading event, the National Wine Show of Australia Canberra.
He has also been a senior judge at the Hawke's Bay A&P; wine awards.