Saturday, March 29, 2008


NZ wine consumption figures show that the per capita consumption of wine (both NZ and imported wine) is about 22 litres or nearly 30 bottles of normal sized wine bottles.
This is 2 and a half bottles per month or just over half a bottle per week.
Is this a lot of wine? Certainly I drink more than this myself but there are a lot of people captured in the 'per capita' figure that do not drink wine at all for all sorts of reasons (too young, too old, religious or cultural reasons, health reasons, don't like the taste, only like beer and or spirits or simply that they are miserable bastards).
I personally think that the per capita consumption figure is misleading as it suggests all the wine is being consumed when it actually is not.
Have you ever noticed the panicky press releases and marketing correctional programmes that come from the breweries when there has been 'unseasonal' weather in Spring or Summer or at festive times and long weekends? Beer consumption (or more correctly, sales) go down if it rains, blows or freezes. Why? Does the average beer drinker, used to the usual weekly consumption of x bottles or cans say 'stuff it, its too cold, windy or wet to drink? Like hell he or she does.
Does the average party goer or entertainer cancel events, BBQ's or parties that they have invited all and sundry to weeks ago cancel because of a bit of cool weather? No way. They would be seen to be a wuss. What they do in fact is have their tipple, BBQ or party but indoors rather than outdoors and generally in a more contained environment.
This leads me to the difference between actual consumption figures and the amount of alcohol (usually beer and wine in this regard) purchased. The difference is wastage.
Next time you have a BBQ or large party, particularly if it is held outdoors, take notice of the number of half-full glasses and bottles that litter tables, bench-tops, floors, gardens, window-sills etc. Did the users just stop drinking half-way through and disappear? No, they got talking, dancing, fornicating, went for a slash, lost their way, avoided a boring bastard or simply wanted a fresh glass or brew. This is the wastage (unless you combine all dregs, freeze them and bring them out for the next party's punch*). How much? It is hard to calculate but could be as much as a quarter.
The same applies to pubs and restaurants where wine in particular is left in bottles and glasses.
So., what happens if the weather is inclement and the guests stay indoors mainly?
They keep hold of their bloody glass for one thing, don't lose it and have it topped up when it needs it.
They don't grab bottles willy-nilly out of fridges, chilly-bins or off tables for another, generally waiting for the host to offer another drink.
Do they drink more or less? Probably about the same, as everyone generally knows their tolerance for alcohol or the boundaries they have set themselves (we are talking in averages here remember).
The usage difference between indoor controlled and indoors/outdoors casual can be quite extraordinary and is something I have noticed often over the years.

Last weekend (Easter Sunday and a lovely evening), we had a BBQ with a nice group of friends. There were 7 of us. We had a good time - chatted, drunk wine, some beer and non-alcohol drinks on the deck, ate inside and then back out onto the deck- not a particularly long party nor a late night.
At the close (and next morning) we discovered numerous half-full glasses of wine about the place and several half-full bottles including 3 bottles of different Chardonnay with only a glass equivalent out of each. With the opened and still substantially full Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Crianza almost eqalling the empty bottles of the same I calculated that about 40% was virtually wastage. Fortunately, we are not the people who tip opened and unused wine down the drain straight away. New World wine and new vintages of Old World wine usually benefit from some time being opened and keep well in a fridge for 2 to 3 days, sometimes getting better. The problem often is that in a working week following a big weekend one doesn't feel like drinking a lot of wine and probably not each night. What can be done is to * freeze the wine (top up bottles to at least 4/5ths) and keep for a couple of weeks.
When thawed out the wine will still show some signs of oxidation but will be a lot better than you might expect. It will be cloudy (various nutrients etc falling out of solution in the process) but totally drinkable. OK, I wouldn't do this with a sub $15 bottle of wine but if there was someting pretty good, why not!
Do people tip wine down the sink just as they tip out left over beer? Yes. Apallingly so. There is a popular misconception that once wine is opened it has had it. To knock down this misconception one only has to visit a winery - but that is the story for another posting.