Are Kiwis smarter than Aussies? – Maybe Piggy Muldoon was right!

I spent a fair bit of time working and living in New Zealand in the 1980s. I met Piggy Muldoon once, and also David Lange before the days of security threats. I remember a cocktail party in Wellington where David Lange walked from the Beehive without security and wandered in unannounced like any other guest. But it was Piggy Muldoon’s quip about the brain drain that stands out. When quizzed at a door stop interview, Piggy Muldoon responded with “New Zealanders who emigrate to Australia raise the IQ of both countries”. You had to love Piggy.

Anyway, he may have been right, because the ones who stayed behind must be very smart indeed if the simple act of buying wine is any measure.

Lets’ look at buying wine in Australia. Once the Aussie drinker has moved on from moscato to something more sophisticated like sauvignon blanc, the choices are simple. Sauvignon Blanc = New Zealand = Cloudy Bay. End of story. Couldn’t be easier. OK, there’s Cloudy Bay Te Koko but only investment bankers would order that at a restaurant. No, for the main part it’s a simple discourse between the customer and the sommelier. “I’ll have the Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc”. “Certainly, sir”

Not so in New Zealand apparently.

The discussion might start with “I’ll have the Saint Clair Family Estate, sauvignon blanc please”

“Certainly ma’am, would that be the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve, the Premium, the Vicar’s Choice, the Pioneer Block 1 Foundation, the Pioneer Block 2 Swamp Block, the Pioneer Block 3 43 Degrees, the Pioneer Block 4 Sawcut, the Pioneer Block 6 Oh Block, the Pioneer Block 7 Berry Block, the Pioneer Block 8 Friar’s, the Pioneer Block 11 Cell Block, the Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block, the Pioneer Block 19 Bird Block, the Pioneer Block 20 Cash Block or the Pioneer Block 21 Bell Block?”

“Er, sorry could you repeat please?”

“Perhaps ma’am would like a pinot instead. We can offer Saint Clair Premium, Omaka Reserve, Doctor’s Creek Reserve, Pioneer Block 5 Bull Block, Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum, Pioneer Block 14 Doctor’s Creek not to be confused with Doctor’s Creek Reserve, Pioneer Block 15 Strip Block and Pioneer Block 16 Awatere”.

Forget the customer, think how smart the sommelier has to be! Some can probably even name the vines.

Anyway, I reckon Piggy’s point is well made. The real question is, are the up and coming Chinese wine buyers as smart as Kiwi wine buyers? I wonder what the mandarin is for Cloudy Bay?

And speaking of sauvignon blanc, in this line-up today, I won’t be:

NV / Lindauer / Brut / New Zealand / Sparkling / S$29.90 at The Cellar Door – Michael Cooper says it’s “Good, Bronze Medal”, Bob Campbell rates it “Above Average”. It’s not expensive at home at NZ$16 and not relatively expensive here either. At S$29.90, it’s pretty good value.

NV / Summerhouse / Blanc de blanc / Marlborough / Sparkling / S$47.50 at Underground Wines – This retails at twice the price of the Lindauer at NZ$32, but it doesn’t end up twice the price here. There’s that duty at work again. Michael Cooper 4 “Excellent, Silver Medal”, and Bob Campbell 86 “Above Average”. The pricing puts it into the “good value” category.

2009 / Domain Road / Central Otago / Riesling / S$46 at eWineAsia – Michael Cooper 3.5 “Very Good”, drinking out to 2015. Price is spot on with RRP of NZ$24.

2008 / Tarras / The Canyon / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$69.55 at Hermitage Wines – The ratings OK, Michael Cooper 4.5 “Excellent”, but with a RRP of NZ$42, it’s coming in a fraction too high to meet the BBI. Good wine, marginal value.

2007 / Trinity Hill / The Gimblett / Hawkes Bay / S$44.90 at The Local Nose and The Cellar Door – So what is The Gimblett? It’s 51% Merlot, 17% Cabernet, 12% Petit Verdot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% Malbec. A red then. Michael Cooper gives it 5 stars (Outstanding, Gold Medal) and reckons it’ll drink to 2015. The RRP is shown as NZ$30 so the price here of S$44.90 puts it into the “good value” category.

Here’s a comparative price test:

2006 / Felton Road / Central Otago / Chardonnay – I reviewed this a while back but decided not to post the review as at S$56 at The Cellar Door, I didn’t think it represented good value. Well, at S$74/S$70.30 Member at Crystal Wines, my opinion hasn’t changed. It’s still for sale at The Cellar Door for S$56, so if you disagree with my opinion on value, you can at least save yourself some hard earned.

And, I told you…..

Back in December, I recommended the 2007 / Kumeu River / Mates / Auckland / Chardonnay / S$49 at Wine Exchange Asia – By the time you read this, I’m guessing that Wine Exchange Asia will have closed its current offer (same price as December) but at the time I said it was terrific value. If you missed out, you’re going to kick yourself. I reckon this wine (Michael Cooper 5 “Outstanding”) could have come in S$15 dearer and still met the BBI. Too late, mate.

“What attractive wine categories can New Zealand be first in? The answer is not sauvignon blanc that tastes grassy. New Zealand might lead in making that wine, but it is not a financially attractive category. It has limited price elasticity, is not regarded as a premium variety that commands lofty prices, and New Zealand is ill-equipped to be the low-cost producer.” – Mike Spratt, co-founder of Destiny Bay, writing in New Zealand Winegrower.

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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

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