Posts Tagged 'new zealand'

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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Year of the Rabbit – uh, oh!

It may be coming up to the Year of the Rabbit but that’s no need to treat consumers as rabbits. I do hope that some of the pricing seen in the last week or so is not representative of the year to come. I know the A$ is high, but hasn’t anyone heard there’s a wine glut on? Ditto for New Zealand where things are possibly even more dire than in Australia. Will Lyons wrote in the Asian Wall Street Journal this week:

“…2011 will continue to see an oversupply of grapes, particularly in countries that have experienced a sustained wine boom. I fear some of those growers who planted vineyards in New Zealand to cash in on the phenomenon of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will realize the economics don’t add up.”

What with the glut, and the collapse of a major US distributor last year, there’s a lot of wine washing around in the hands of liquidators, and harsh as it might seem for the growers, that can mean tremendous deals for buyers. Last week in Australia I bought several cases of 2006 The Colonial Estate Eclaireur Old Vine Grenache forA$8.99 a bottle. That’s a 92 point Wine Spectator wine that listed at US$28 before the collapse of the distributor.  At A$8.99, I’ll take a punt on it (and did) (See http://www.getwinesdirect.com)

Instead, in Singapore, some distributors/retailers still seem to think that “ignorance is bliss” and as buyers we are all ignorant. It’s going to come as a shock when they realise (or care) that buyers can have Halliday’s ratings and pricing on their i-Phone for next to nothing, and thats there’s a growing number of websites dedicated to hunting down the best deals.

Bastard Box will continue to hunt out the good (mainly), the bad and the ugly (occasionally) in Singapore.

Let’s kick away with some Kiwis:

2008 / Ata Rangi / Crimson / Martinborough / Pinot Noir / S$48 at Crystal Wines (S$45.60 member price) – 4 Stars – You’ll know I’m a big fan of the flagship 2008 Pinot Noir but it sells for about S$72, so this “lesser” label comes in quite a bit below that. Michael Cooper gives it 4 stars and Bob Campbell gives it 87 points, but both comment that it’s still a good wine and a good price, where it sells in New Zealand at NZ$32. The BBI reckons it could list here at around S$43-44 so the price at Crystal is OK, but only just. You’ll be better off hopping down to The Cellar Door in VivoCity where you’ll get the same wine for S$36.90. Think about it.

2006 / Pegasus Bay / Waipara / Chardonnay / S$49 at The Cellar Door – 4.5 Stars – Bob Campbell gives it 91 points. It retails for NZ$35 so the price here is pretty close to where the BBI would expect it to be. Drinking out to 2016.

2010 / Soho / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$29.50 at Underground Wines – 3.5 Stars  from Bob Campbell (83 points) so don’t expect too much. It’s only NZ$17 at home.  The price here is OK, but for an extra S$10 you could have got Cloudy Bay just before Xmas.

And now to the Aussies:

Let’s talk about wine because talking about cricket is just too painful. All out for 98! Wow, what a Boxing Day.

2007 & 2008 / Angove / Long Row / Riverland / Chardonnay / S$31.03 at Top Wines (that’s after adding GST which isn’t included in the quoted price)  – 3 to 4 Stars – Wine Estate gives it 3 stars, Halliday gives it 87 points. Not top line then, but neither is the price, at least in Australia. There it retails (a loose term at this end of the market) for A$9.75. At that price, you can forgive a lot of sins, and frankly it’s what you’d expect to pay for a Riverland chardonnay. But the “normal” price in Singapore is S$36 (oh, plus GST making it normally S$38.52) and that’s a whole different equation. Even at S$31.03, this falls too far outside the BBI to gather any recommendation, rating aside. Pass.

2009 / Dominique Portet / Fontaine / Yarra Valley & Pyrenees / Rose / S$34 at eWinesAsia – 4 to 4.5 Stars – Had one of these earlier in the year and found it quite agreeable. Halliday gives it 92 points but Wine Front only 87. Drink it this year though. Great for a pre-dinner drink outside.  With a RRP of A$20, this is good value.

2002 / Lengs & Cooter / Reserve / McLaren Vale / Shiraz / S$99 from Profiters International – 4.5 Stars – I don’t get it. This wine on release was A$45, and even now my research shows you’ll pay about that to get it now. So why the “Usual Price” of S$120 discounted down to S$99? For the record, Halliday rates it 94 points, drinking to 2013. I must be missing something.

“We will always have the time to make love and drink Champagne, and we will do it even more. Champagne’s only competitor is Viagra.” – Pierre-Emmanuel Tattinger, CEO of Taittinger

Airport duty free – be afraid, be very afraid

I’m betting that whenever you’ve looked at Australian or New Zealand wine at an airport duty free shop, you’ve wondered whether it was such a good deal. But in that last minute rush, you buy something – it can’t be that far out can it?

I’m in Australia at the moment so I’ll be checking what’s on offer at the airport on my way back, but I can tell you this about buying at Changi on the way down (and I honestly don’t know the name of the duty free store).

2007 / Penfolds / Koonunga Hill / Seventy Six / shiraz cabernet on the shelf “duty free” at S$39 a bottle.

Hang on a minute? Isn’t that exactly the same wine that I just bought retail from Wine Exchange in Singapore at S$32 (OK, S$34 for a single bottle). Yep, sure is. So not only is the “duty free” price at least S$5 higher than what I can buy it for retail, it doesn’t include duty of S$7 a bottle that my retail purchase does.

Unless my maths is screwed up (highly likely!) then that makes the “duty free” price S$12 out of whack. In a S$34 bottle. Ouch!


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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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