New Zealand Wines – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, pricing that is.

I attended a New Zealand wine tasting on the weekend, billed as a “Twilight Taste Tour”. And a virtual tour it was, from Hawkes Bay through Martinborough and Marlborough and ending up down in Central Otago. To be honest, there were some fairly ordinary wines on offer, with a lot in the 4 star range (OK for some) but quite a few that rated in the 3 to 3.5 star range and even some at 2.5 stars according to the knowledgeable Kiwi raters.  I can’t help but think that some of the Kiwi producers reckon that Singapore is a great place to get rid of that excess stock – cheaper to ship to than the US or UK, and the expats still have money in their pockets. Well, I think they’re wrong.  Ignorance may have been bliss once, but if you can’t shift an ordinary wine in New Zealand at a discount, you sure as hell can’t shift it in Singapore at a premium.

But it wasn’t all “bed” though. There were some truly wicked wines to try and I’ve listed them here in varietal order for a change so you can make your own direct comparison. It’s a pity that I didn’t get the chance to try them all but we only had three hours!

Let’s kick off with a pinot gris:

2008 / Bald Hills / Pigeon Rocks / Central Otago / Pinot Gris / S$38.80 from Le Vigne – A refreshing change from sauvignon blanc. Bob Campbell gives it 90 points and with a RRP of NZ$25, the pricing here is about right.

A couple of rieslings, the emerging variety from New Zealand:

2009 / Misha’s Vineyard / Limelight / Central Otago / Riesling / S$39 from Rubicon Reserve Wines – I’m a big fan of Misha’s Vineyard, not just because of the great wines but also because anyone that puts as much effort and passion into their business as Misha does, deserves our support. Bob Campbell gives this wine 93 points and with a RRP of NZ$25, and at S$39 it too fits within the BBI (Bastard Box Index) for fair comparative value.

2007 / Amisfield / Lowburn Terrace / Central Otago / Riesling / S$60 from Wines Online – Frankly, I don’t understand the pricing on this one. S$60 for a Kiwi riesling puts it way above anything else from down under, including those fantastic Clare Valley rieslings. It’s S$15 above Grosset Polish Hill!  Good luck guys. With a RRP of NZ$35, my BBI reckons that a fair price for this would be around S$46. Which is a pity, because this wine is rated 96 points by Gourmet Traveller Wine.

It wouldn’t be a New Zealand review without a couple of sauvignon blancs, and they’re both from the same maker:

2008 / Terravin / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$37 from Terravin Singapore – A solid 4.5 star sauvignon blanc. Gourmet Traveller Wine gave it 4.5 stars and Bob Campbell gives it 91 points. Even though it’s a 2008, it’s suggested that it will drink out to 2012. And, thankfully with a RRP of NZ$25, the pricing is spot on.

2008 / Terravin / Te Ahu / Marlborough / S$52 from Terravin Singapore – This is one of those “branded wines” but it’s a sauvignon blanc, and a good one. Decanter Magazine gave it 18 points and suggested drinking to 2011. Sells in the UK for GBP18 and with a RRP of NZ$36, it just sneaks inside the BBI for value. Just.

And so on to chardonnay. Does New Zealand make chardonnay? Apparently:

2007 / Vidal / Reserve / Hawke’s Bay / Chardonnay / S$55 from Wine Guru – Wine Estate Magazine liked this giving it 5 stars. Nice wine then, pity about the price. My info tells me that this sells for NZ$30 locally, meaning the BBI would put it at around S$41 max for value. It isn’t, it’s at S$55 so I’ll pass. Again, pity.

OK, let’s get into the proper stuff. Pinot Noir:

2007 / Auntsfield / Hawk Hill / Marlborough / Pinot Noir / S$52 from Rubicon Reserve Wines – 5 stars from Gourmet Traveller Wine, and recommended drinking out to 2015. And decent pricing thankfully. With a RRP of NZ$40, this should come in at about S$52. Snap! Well done guys, so no excuses for passing up on this one.

2007 / Vynfields / Reserve / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$60 from Rev Distribution – This is probably the pick of the bunch value wise. Rated 5 stars by Michael Cooper and with a RRP of NZ$49, this is a no-brainer. Get some.

2007 / Domain Road / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$61.20 from Booze Wine Shop – Damn. Just when we were on a roll for value. RRP NZ$35, BBI says it should be about S$46. Oh, well. Wine Estate reckons it’s a 4.5 star wine.

2007 / Bald Hills / Single Vineyard / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$66 from Le Vigne – I’m assuming you’ll get 10% off for cash or cheque so the pricing then slips inside my BBI. It’s a good, solid wine with Gourmet Traveller Wine giving it 92 points, Bob Campbell 90 points, and Michael Cooper 4.5 stars. Drinking out to 2016. RRP NZ$44. A personal favourite.

2008 / Amisfield / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$84 from Wines Online – Let’s give you the good news first. This is another good, solid pinot noir. Michael Cooper 4.5 stars, Bob Campbell 93 points, Wine Spectator 93 points and drinking to 2017. But this is where it starts to get ugly. RRP NZ$40. That’s NZ$9 less than the Vynfields but asking price is S$24 more. Don’t ask me, I’m just the consumer. As they so often say in Australia and New Zealand….bugger.

Does New Zealand make other reds? Apparently;

2007 / Vidal / Hawke’s Bay / Syrah / S$51 from Wine Guru – Michael Cooper gave it 4.5 stars but Gourmet Traveller Wine only 87 points. With a RRP of NZ$25, I won’t be tempted at S$51.

And finally, some stickies just in time for Xmas:

2007 / Seifried / Winemakers Collection Ice Wine / Nelson / 375ml/ Riesling / S$39.90 from Le Vigne – This wine won the Decanter International Trophy for NZ sweet wines and is rated 18 points by them standalone. Retails for about NZ$27. Seifried is another personal favourite so I’ll be getting some of this.

2006 / Terravin / Noble / Marlborough / 375ml / Sauvignon Blanc / S$49 from Terravin Singapore – Michael Cooper 5 stars, end of story. RRP NZ$48, end of story. Get some.

Do you remember the first time you had Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc? I do. I was working for an investment bank in Wellington in 1988 and one of the young whipper-snappers introduced me to it over lunch (it was the 80s after all) and I can remember the impact. Blown away, just blown away.  Well, Cloudy Bay has just celebrated its 25th birthday and must be one of New Zealand’s greatest exports that hasn’t yet been claimed by Australia. Congratulations.

“Other places [than New Zealand] make Chardonnay much better. White Burgundy is one of the world’s great wines; is it enough to say you make it ‘nearly’ as well”? – Rosemary George MW, Regional Chair for New Zealand at the Decanter World Wine Awards, as quoted in Decanter June 2010.


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Wine quotations

"A good bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" - Louis Pasteur

“The unexacting palates of the masses…are content to ask no question [on origin] so long as a florin or half-a-crown will purchase a roomy flagon of strong , full-bodied, fruity wine” – CE Hawker writing in 1907