Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm enjoying a good NZ Chardonnay in the early evening sunshine (yes sunshine, its 7PM and there is still sun on the deck. The bay is beautiful. Life is good. So is the Chardonnay. It is Selaks Winemakers Reserve 2009. 100% Hawkes Bay (Bayview and Haumoana) fruit. This is made seriously. Free flow juice, malolactic fermentation, barrique ageing - the works. It is a great peachy, spicy, long-flavoured wine that shows what NZ Chardonnay, particularly Hawkes Bay Chardonnay can deliver. It is not quite as good as the stunning 2008 version but it is delicious. How much is it worth? Between $20 and $30. How much did I pay for it? $13.99 at New World. Ridiculous I know but that is what is happening out there. I only hope that too much discounting doesn't compromise the quality and integrity of this wine given that the powers that be at Constellation NZ have seemingly discontinued its bigger brothers - Selaks Founders, Rose Tree Cottage and Nobilo Dixon.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Some neighbours came around for dinner on Saturday night and brought with them two bottles of Stonyridge Larose (not one, two!). They were the new release 2009 and the previous release 2008. For those who are unfamiliar with Stonyridge Larose, this is a sought after wine, made in minute quantities and one of the, if not most, expensive New Zealand wines. Most people hoard them and bring them out after years of cellaring. This is fine as the wines will last for a long time but it is great trying wines like this in their infancy and guessing what they might develop into.

We tried the 2008 first. This is a Cabernet sauvignon predominant blend with Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (no percentages given). The wine was superb. It had great blackberry-like fruit from the Cabernet but also a rich and smooth texture from the Merlot. It had a big structure supported by good oak (mostly new oak by the taste of it) and was very spicy. The spiciness gave a savoury dimension to the taste which mixed with the very good fruit made for a very complex wine. This is one that will last for some time and it was a treat to taste. Definitely Gold Medal standard.

We followed with the 2009. Man, what a difference. This was also a stunningly good wine but for different reasons. It is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. There were more fruity and less savoury notes with this wine, possibly because of the lower proportion of Merlot. It was amazingly soft and smooth. The structure didn't seem as big as that of the 2008 but this was not a detraction, just a reflection of different vintage and different blend proportions. It was like drinking a very young vintage port without the high alcohol - rich and sweet. Whilst I preferred the 2008 vintage this was still a great wine of Gold Medal standard.

As we had finished the Stonyridge and were about to play Pool we opened a 2002 E&E Black Pepper Shraz. This wasn't done as a comparison, more because great wine should be followed by wine of comparable greatness. E&E is one of Australia's top Shiraz wines from Barossa Valley. It was rich and smooth with the 8 years age showing development but the wine was no where near its peak and will continue to improve for a few more years yet.

Lynn and I got thrashed 3-0 in the Pool challenge but never mind. The wines more than made up for it.
Sunday morning started a bit slow after 3 bottles of big red wine between 4 of us (plus the Chardonnay starter) but fresh sea air out on the boat blew any cobwebs away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Pernod Ricard NZ is selling its sparkling wine brands including Lindauer and some of its cheaper and non-core brands for 88 million dollars.
This sounds like a massive amount of money but to put things in perspective, Independent Liquor sold in 2006 for 1.26 billion dollars. Independent’s main brands were those godawful alcopops and RTD’s that young people drink.
Now I know that young people also drink the cheap sparkling wine brands and that Bernadino, Chardon and Aquila are responsible for young women’s (and some older male schoolteacher’s) excessive drinking, but in the final count cheap spirits in kiddy packaging are the main contributors to irresponsible alcohol consumption. The fact that this crap sold for over 14 times the value of the wine brands (the largest selling sparkling wine brands in New Zealand) shows where Independent Liquor’s new owners thought the growth was.
At least, on recent reports, Independent Liquor, majority owned by Australia’s Pacific Equity Partners and Hong Kong-based Unitas Capital only managed a revenue rise of 6 million dollars (just 1.4% increase) but posted an annual loss of 44 million dollars, up on the 34 million dollars they lost last year.
You can burn your fingers when playing with the devil.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Evil Grocer

There was once an evil Grocer in a kingdom that had only two grocers to supply the hungry peasants. This grocer was greedy and a bully and frequently stole from his suppliers while jacking up his prices to the peasants. He laughingly would tell them “ go to my competitor if you think you can get a better deal” knowing full well that the competitor was doing the same thing. The peasants felt squeezed but as the competitor was actually born in the kingdom they often favoured him more than the evil grocer who was from a distant kingdom. This made the evil grocer mad so he hired equally evil crows as servants to put more pressure on his suppliers. One day an honest supplier who had been selling the evil grocer amphorae of wine thought that it would be a good idea to reward the peasants with extra quantities of wine at the same price as the normal sized amphora. 
Honest Supplier

He said to the evil crow servant “As you buy a lot of my wines I wish to offer you this deal first. I will sell you amphorae that are half as big again as the normal size but at the same price as the normal sized ones. You can make your profit and the peasants will get a good deal as a reward for their loyalty to you and to my brand” The evil crow servant said “Nah. I don’t care about rewarding the peasants and I think that it is a stupid idea. Take it to my competitor if you like but don’t bother me again. And by the way, I’ve just put up the compulsory ‘marketing’ levy to you” Feeling dejected the honest supplier went to the competitor and offered him the same deal. The competitor was excited and said “Thank you honest supplier. This will reward my customers greatly and I can see an opportunity for selling even more than normal of your wonderful product. I will take all the larger amphorae that you have”.  The honest trader was happy but said that as the larger amphora was more difficult and costly to make he could not get any more made in time for the harvest celebrations but as what he had and that the competitor was taking was 10 times the normal sales volume anyway he didn’t see that there would be any problem. In due time the larger amphorae arrived and the sales were as predicted ten times the normal. The competitor was elated. The honest supplier pleased and the peasants excited. It did not take long for the evil grocer to notice and so he had his evil crow servant summon the honest supplier and said “ Why have you sold that good deal to my competitor? I want the same deal immediately” The honest supplier presented proof of the evil crow servant’s refusal of the offer and was reminded that he had been given the offer first but it fell on deaf ears. In exasperation he explained that no more of the larger amphorae could be produced in time for the harvest celebrations.
Evil Crow Servant

 The evil crow servant then threatened that unless the honest supplier paid him the amount of profit that he would have made if he had sold all of the amphorae to the evil grocer then the evil grocer would send back all of the other produce that the honest supplier had supplied into his store and would never trade with him again. This was devastating news for the honest supplier as this would mean that he would lose half of his business and would not be able to provide employment for his own trusty servants. The honest supplier sought an interview with the evil grocer and explained to him what his evil crow servant was doing. The evil grocer said “ My crow servant is following my wishes and I cannot counter that. Begone and think yourself lucky that we will still consider your product. Pay us the money and do not make complaints to the highest tribunals in the land. If you do so even if they find judgement in your favour we will no longer purchase your products. Away with you” The honest supplier had no alternative than to bow down to these outlandish demands and give away hard earned profits to keep the evil grocer happy.

The moral of the story? In a duopoly honest suppliers get screwed, consumers rarely benefit and fat bastards get fatter.