Monday, October 26, 2009


CUB's (Foster's) new cheap wine brand 'Half Mile Creek' was created to compete with Hardys cheap ranges and to clear the lake of ordinary wine that they have on their hands.
Obviously a designer brand, it is pitched at the bottom end of the market. Winemaking input basically ceased as soon as the grapes were crushed and the stuff was in the tanks. From then on it is an accountants headache and the marketers responsibility. I don't know how much brainstorming went into the name choice but the cynic in me thinks that it went along the lines of this....
Accountant: We've got 10 million litres of this stuff. What are we going to do with it".
Production Guy: "Well, there's a creek a half a mile down the hill, why not just leave the valves open"
Marketing Guy: "Bingo!. Half Mile Creek. The punters will love it".

The marketing team then develop the label and write all sorts of crap describing the wines. They are careful not to ask the winemakers for input and so come up with descriptions like .."It has zesty, citrus flavours and a crisp, dry finish" - Yeah right.

They give the game away when even their own website, on the page dedicated to Half Mile Creek can only come up with : " Half Mile Creek is not complicated - it is an easy drinking wine that is good quality and affordable. The wines are made from the best, most popular varieties and have a focus on full fruit flavours and drinkability. The whites are fresh and vibrant while the reds are rich and warming.
Welcome to Half Mile Creek - where we pour everything into our wines.

Yes, I bet they do pour everything into these wines - sugar, sulphides, acid etc.

On a discussion website the marketers say about the brand "Half Mile was about taking out the confusion from the wine category and making it easier for people who have a small base knowledge of wine. With 5500 stockists selling Half Mile, the wine's drinkers don't necessarily have a great deal of expertise and tended to make their decisions on pricing and brand recognition".

CUB marketing director Steve Arthurson relaunched the wine in May with a substantial tasting program and a $1.1 million advertising campaign that gently poked fun at the snobbery surrounding wine - a direct pitch to those consumers who feel intimidated by wines in the upper price brackets but don't want to feel embarrassed at pulling it out at the barbecue.

This can be interpreted as "The schmucks we are targeting wouldn't know a good wine if they bit them on the arse so why not sell this stuff to them. We were only going to have to tip it out anyway".

Saturday, October 17, 2009


One of my many readers has asked about the 2003 vintage from Hawkes Bay. This reader is obviously a little slow off the mark. Either that or he has been duped by supermarkets into buying old wine on special that hasn't sold previously due to inferior winemaking or vintage conditions. Sadly the latter applied in this case. 2003 was a difficult year for grape growers and winemakers in Hawkes Bay. Spring brought late frosts that destroyed a lot of grape potential and diminished the quality and quantity of the remainder. The warm summer looked promising but a wet Autumn (when the grapes are picked) negated the advantages of ripeness. Wet picking conditions give grape growers a double whammy. Humidity accompanies rainy conditions and encourages rot and fungal diseases of the grapes - imparting musty and unwanted 'honeyish' characters. Rain also gathers in the bunches and when harvested has a dilution effect on the juice from the crush reducing the intensity of fruit flavours.
Not all wine from this vintage was poor. The best wines stemmed from careful vineyard maintenance and there were some superb examples. Careful vineyard maintenance however means high input costs so these wines are expensive, Remember that I said late Spring frosts also reduced quantity so the best wines were also scarce. It is highly unlikely that our reader discovered an exceptional 2003 Hawkes Bay wine on special at his supermarket. Well done that reader though in feeling confident to ask the question. Keep those queries coming in folks.


One of the most unusual and entertaining regulars (non-student types) working at the wholesalers was Robbie. He seemed to live in his own world and would mutter to himself. He was very intelligent but chose not to do a lot with his gifts - not in a career way at least.He had a wry sense of humour and was the inventor of the 'bottled in the Wairarapa' phrase. We had an agency brandy named Gilsons which had a network of fine golden wire covering the bottle. When customers purchased it Robbie would proudly proclaim - "Gilsons, the only brandy bottled in the wire wrapper". Some customers smiled. Others looked at the bottle dubiously and chose another 'French' brandy instead like D'Orville or Chatelle.
Robbie was the only person there who wore the shopcoat - a kind of coat/overall that later I saw Arkwright wearing in 'Open All Hours'.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Richard in a recent blog post complained about the difficulty of reaching for a bottle of wine whilst holding on to his double bass.
I reckon that he's got his priorities wrong. He should be holding on to a double bass sized bottle and reaching for a ukulele. If he can't reach it nobody cares.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


We're packing up our things for the move at present and discovering things we thought had long gone.
In the wine cellar I came across a bottle of Taylor's St Andrews Merlot 2001 of which I thought we had none left. This is a blockbuster of a wine and will suit Tom who is coming around to dinner tonight. That and a good Chardonnay and a good Pinot Noir will make for a nice evening (there will be 5 of us).

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Willie was 2 I.C. at the wholesalers. He was very efficient in the sense that he fussed about organising things all the time. Bruce of course was his boss but he thought that Bruce was too indulgent with the students particularly Richard. He tolerated Richard but didn't really like his humour. He suspected that Richard was behind the graffiti and the smashed ink marker pens (these left an interesting pattern when thrown at the concrete walls and ceiling in the warehouse. They smashed to smithereens because they were made of glass).Willie was very much interested in wine. While Bruce encouraged everyone to take a free bottle home each Saturday and try it to gain experience, he didn't seem to mind what was taken. Willie knew that the students would go straight for the Chateau bottled stuff. Willie 'encouraged' us to take 'interesting' new New Zealand wines. These were invariably made from Baco 22A (white) and Baco 1A (red). Think Bakano, Cresta Dore, 'Hocks', 'Moselles', 'Clarets', and 'Burgundies'.We of course would do so but when Willie wasn't watching switch for a Chateau bottled wine.
Willie went on to run his own wine distribution business and ultimately to realise his dream and own a vineyard and wine brand. I liked Willie and got on well with him (he obviously didn't suspect me of smashing the marker pens). I saw him at his vineyard shortly before he died.