Thursday, May 31, 2018


"Hawkes Bay Chardonnay is on special"

In a discussion at the tennis club this morning I explained to a couple of people how I buy my wine.

I was amazed at the lack of understanding of wine quality and value that there is out there and then thought that yes, my industry experience does give me an advantage when purchasing wine.

I mix up my buying process depending, obviously, on the type of wine I wish to buy and the occasion.
For day to day wine I'm looking for the best possible deal (value) but for celebratory wine I'll look for the best quality wine I can find that I can afford (also value).

My shopping channels are:

  • Supermarket
  • On line retailers
  • On-line producers
  • Fine wine stores
In supermarkets I tend to limit my purchasing to wines that I know something about the provenance of - region, style, producer, vintage and have a list in my head that I 'shop' from. I tend to wait until a wine is on special before buying and, if it is on a very deep cut special I'll buy several or even a case.

With on-line retailers I usually stick with The Fine Wine Delivery Company and www.Blackmarketwines. I stick with wine styles, regions and producers I know but these websites provide a lot of information on the wines and sometimes I feel comfortable to experiment. I look for wines with the biggest discount and then research why this might be - failed export order (which is often an overused rort), winery going out of business (this happens), over-production (usually happens) or failing sales (very common particularly if the producer refuses to deal with or has been cut out of supermarkets).

With on-line producers I generally know what I'm looking for and will buy direct from them if I cannot find the wine or vintage I want through retail channels. There is rarely savings to be had here.

I use Fine Wine stores like Glengarry or The Fine Wine Delivery Company (yes they have a couple of tremendous retail stores as well as on-line delivery) for special purchases like a good vintage champagne for a birthday or anniversary, fino sherries that are not sold in supermarkets and special vintages of great wines. Sometimes, especially with Glengarry there are great specials to be had.

When it comes to looking for value I employ different methods with the different channels.
Note: Cleanskin wine (wines sold without a normal label and only the mandatory things like alc/vol, country of origin etc) is a minefield and very rarely offers a bargain - certainly not in value terms anyway. I prefer to know who produced the wine I'm buying. Cleanskin in its initial days (started up in Australia) did provide good deals as producers tried to turn stocks into much needed cash but has since become just another marketing tool with some pretty ordinary wine being offered for sale.

The two main ways I buy the biggest quantity of wine is on super special deals from supermarkets or from on-line retailers.


Simple, I wait for the big wine sales not just the week to week stuff.
An example is with Countdown's 20% off sales for any mixed case of 6 wines. As long as you buy 6 of any mix then a 20% discount is automatically applied at the till. Often I'll buy 2 or 3 cases worth if the deal is good enough. So, how do you get a better deal than the 20%? Simply only buy wines that have already been discounted by the producers with a say $5 off deal. Some wines can be up to $10 off. As long as you buy wines that fit the criteria of style, producer, vintage etc then you cannot go wrong. Sometimes if I don't know much about a particular wine then the old standby of Trophy, Gold Medal or 5 Star review sticker on the bottle is a safe bet.

Note: The Sale of Liquor act makes it illegal for retailers to discount alcohol by over 25%. By buying my wine at the 20% mixed 6 deal on wines that have already been reduced the total discount can be as much as 40% off. This is illegal but I get a damned good deal and will strip the shelves for particular wines. Look at this scenario. A wine has a normal shelf price of $25.95. There is an $8 off deal going as part of an occasional promotion bringing the price down to $17.95. With the additional 20% off the price comes down to $14.36 being 43% discount. Beauty!
As I said I buy most of my volume by waiting for these supermarket special sales.

On-line retailers

I buy a lot of wine by the case (12 or 6 pack cases) and have it delivered to my home. I select wines that I know well or that have great provenance with good reviews. They are always good deals but sometimes even better deals can be had. These are the 'mystery wines'. These are not like cleanskins as they have the full normal packaging but are a mystery to the purchaser as the producer's name is not stated. The on-line retailer promotes the wine as an extra special mystery deal of an outstanding wine at greatly reduced price. The purchaser will see the packaging and label once the case is delivered. Why does the producer sell his wines this way? It is because there is overproduction and something has gone wrong with sales through the normal channels. The producer needs to move stock quickly as he has a bank manager breathing down his neck but doesn't want to upset his current retail and on-premise stockists who are selling the wine at the normal price. Using the 'mystery' approach hides this. The deals I look for are for wines that are 'normally $40" and are sold as a mystery for say $15 to $20 a bottle.

So, how do I know what I'm getting. I generally limit my buying to chardonnay or pinot noir. Chardonnay only from Hawkes Bay or Gisborne and pinot noir from Waipara, Central Otago or Martinborough as first choice (before Marlborough). The wines will be described by the on-line retailer even though the name of the wine is hidden. The description might be of a celebrated producer with a trophy winning wine and some detail of how the wine tastes along with a glowing review by a good wine writer. It is here when I cut and paste a few select words from this review and do a Google search. Often the exact wine will come up in the search list so that I can check it out against other reviews and prove whether the 'usual' price as stated is correct. I have bought some absolute bargains doing this and haven't been disappointed.

I hope that this is helpful and happy hunting.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Christmas is just about here. Luckily I've got the supplies in to get us through it - lots of wine.

We don't do trees, cards, decorations, letters, turkeys and all that other stuff.

We'll probably get pissed.

Listen to this:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


I was looking for a nice rose in the supermarket today and chose the Villa Maria 'White Label' Rose 2017 that I've had before and has been doing OK in awards accumulation. See:

Happily it was on special so I bought a bottle thinking it would go well with the Summer fruits and vegetable salad I had planned for my dinner... see HERE

Next to the VM 'White Label' Rose was another Villa Maria rose I hadn't seen before - Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir Rose 2017.

This was also on special, at the same price as the 'White Label' - $13.99. Knowing that Cellar Selection wines are usually a price point above the 'White Label' wines I bought a bottle to try.
Without doubt this is the big brother or big sister wine. It has a greater depth of fruit intensity and flavour. It has all of the summer fruits characters of strawberries and raspberries that you expect with a good rose but also has a clear and typical Marlborough cherry Pinot Noir character. 
I'm 'sold' on this wine and I'm going to look out for 'by the case' specials.

Tonight I had it for dinner with that Summer fruits and vegetable salad that The Food Curmudgeon prepared. Result - bloody marvellous.

Monday, December 4, 2017


It's CLEANSKINS 2 because some years ago I wrote a post Cleanskins:

Not a lot has changed in regard to Cleanskins. The wine industries in Australia and New Zealand have vintage yield variations from year to year and supply demand changes which can lead to either gluts or shortages.

Cleanskins usually are the excess from wineries. From time to time wine producers have a surplus of some wines where their sales orders don't use up what they have in tanks and, with a new vintage looming they need to move the wine out quickly. When this happens the marketers worry about the bastardisation (erosion) of the retail price or perceived value and would prefer to hide the fact that their XYZ label is now (temporarily) cheaper. If the wine is already bottled with a label then the option is to use an on-line retailer and sell their wine that way (not to be on a retail shelf) and often advertised as a 'Mystery' wine. If the wine is bottled but not labelled or still in tank waiting to be bottled the temptation is to move it along as a cleanskin.

Not all cleanskin wine is ordinary. when I was in the industry I used to buy and sell cleanskins. Once I negotiated the purchase of a cleanskin wine from a winery that was in financial difficulty and needed cash flow. We put our label on it and submitted to a national wine show where it won gold medal and the trophy for its varietal. The producers were pissed off as if they had had the confidence (or the cashflow) to label it and submit it themselves to the show, the consumer interest in a trophy-winning wine would have meant they would gave got five times or more the return.

The problem is that sometimes the vintages are large and there is a lot of wine washing about and sometimes the vintage is small and wine is at a premium. Sometimes there is great demand for wine from a particular country of origin or region or wine type or varietal and sometimes the buyers and consumers move on to something else. The supply and demand ratio moves.

A winery can create a demand for their 'cleanskin' wine to the detriment of their (same wine) labelled product for which they should be able to sell at a higher price. The result is the creation of cleanskin 'brands'.

These 'cleanskins' since they are produced every year might as well be brands and often to all appearances are although they just list the varietal name.

When this happens the likelihood of the wine being an outstanding example that has only been sold as 'cleanskin' because the producer had too much of it to market under his own brand name becomes a lot less. To satisfy the demand for this cleanskin it is more likely that the producer  outsources bulk wine from elsewhere or even plans production early in the vintage year by growing high-cropping material that doesn't get all the important inputs normally associated with making good wine - why bother when you know that it's going to be sold cheaply as 'cleanskin'.

In summary, buying cleanskins is a bit of a lottery. Sometimes you could be getting a very good example of say a chardonnay at a knock down price or you could be getting a cheaply made chardonnay that, due to the low input manner of production is only worth what you are paying. It's buyer beware.


Richard (of RBB) used to look at cleanskins with disdain (see his comment in my earlier post CLEANSKIN above). Now he's strongly advocating the stuff.

I think that he's just got a taste for the cheap stuff now that he's retired.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


Greetings to fellow members at THE CURMUDGEONS INCⓒ.
Sorry to hear about what that dick Baxter did. It's inexcusable to threaten people but beyond redemption to force inferior cleanskin wine on a person, particularly a friar who likes good wine.

My suggestion is to send Baxter and AJ Christmas presents of wine to appear as if they've been sent by admirers.

Here are my suggestions:

Monday, November 27, 2017


I've written lots of posts about chardonnay over the years. I love the stuff and even when I tried to get away from it and drink Riesling I was pulled back:  See HERE

I'm drinking a glass of Tony Bish Fat n Sassy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014 at the moment. This was left over from the weekend when The Old Girl was up here. This is a rich and delicious chardonnay and has opened up nicely after being uncapped on Saturday. I bought a case of this a while ago at a good price from an online retailer and wish I had more of it. This is a good example of the upper end of Hawkes Bay chardonnay being a heavy, high alcohol (14%) beautifully oaked wine that begs to be taken seriously.
I of course ignored that and we drank most of it while playing pool in the snooker room.

I've finished the Bish chardonnay ....... now that reminds me of one of my favourite albums (one that The Old Girl hates and I have to listen to on my own) - Bish Bosch by Scott Walker see HERE

......and have poured myself a glass of Selaks Buttery Chardonnay 2016. This is from a bottle also left over from the weekend. Again Hawkes Bay this is a lighter version (and cheaper). It's 13% alcohol but with excellent fruit. It's not as woody as the Bish but is beautifully balanced as I would expect from Brett Fullerton's winemaking team. I believe that this just picked up a gold medal in the New World wine awards so hope the price doesn't go up. I bought this at about $16 and it's well worth it. It's a 'slippery' wine meaning that it's too easy to drink and before you know it a half a bottle has gone .

Looking at the little list I made in that old post I'd only drop off: Sacred Hill orange label as they've buggered this up and gone with cheaper materials and; Selaks Winemakers Favourite as it doesn't exist anymore - probably now is the Buttery.
There's lots of good other Hawkes Bay chardonnays that I could add - not now though as I've got to put dinner in the oven (meat loaf and roast potatoes).


Monday, November 20, 2017


I've been buying Villa Maria Hawkes Bay Rose 2017 in New World supermarkets for a couple of months now.  It's bloody nice and, when on special I'd stock up on the stuff. When I first spied it (I look out for new vintage release Rose wines as they are at their best when young) I ignored the big gold decal on the bottle which, when you read the lettering say's something like "NZ's most admired wine brand" or some bollocks like that - unworthy I think of Villa Maria and I wonder if Sir George is aware of what his marketers are doing.

This is the decal - ignore the sauvignon Blanc

This is the wine I've been buying

The wine is superb and fits any occasion or time of day.
I had mixed feelings when I learned that it just won a gold medal in the New World Wine Awards*.
It endorsed my appreciation of the wine but now every bugger will be wanting to drink it. My buying over recent years has been driven by finding excellent wines that 'every bugger' hasn't yet and, as sales volumes might be low the producers or retailers knock the price off.

This is what the NEW WORLD WINE AWARDS judges said about the wine:

Beautifully balanced with textural ripe strawberry flavours and a perfect acid and sugar balance. This Rose has drinkability by the glassful. A Gold medal last year and this year, and the wine is even better if that's possible. Perfect summer Rose to drink while enjoying an outdoor concert.

Yeah, OK and the
"Rose to drink while enjoying an outdoor concert."
comment matches my 'any occasion' comment so we agree on a couple of things.


Rose wine styles have been making a bit of a come back.

Most producers are now making one or two styles under their various brands and labels and there are a lot to choose from.
The trick is in selecting a good one that isn't 'lolly-water' nor an old tired, brown-looking one. Roses are best drunk young so new release 2017 wines - from say September onwards are generally at their best until mid 2018. The provenance of the brand is useful to know (e.g. the Villa Maria PB 2016 went gold as well) and once you find a favourite it pays to check it out each year. There are so  many now though that it pays to check out some other brands and styles and, in case the Villa Maria becomes unaffordable - other prices.

*Asterisk and italics because this is a supermarket chains wine awards.