Saturday, December 31, 2011


We have had a problem with a back label on a wine product sent to China recently.
The Chinese Customs have held up the shipment because the wording on the back label does not exactly match the wording on the invoice.

The wording difference?

On the invoice, in addition to the varietal, vintage and other mandatories is the wording:

(Brand company)'s New Zealand Dry Red Wine

On the back label, along with all the important mandatories including varietal, vintage etc. is the wording:

New Zealand (Brand company)'s Dry Red Wine.

Now the writing on this back label is in Chinese.
The print company for some reason substituted the agreed label artwork for a previous one so that the wording is not in the same order as the invoice.
The line of words in question has exactly  the same number and type of characters on each of the label variants so was virtually impossible to distinguish if one was compared to the other. All of the other Chinese characters on this back label (about 15 lines of it, describe the wine, where it was made, who it was made by, who it is being shipped to, what date it was bottled etc. All of this information is the same on each label and has the same number, type (and order) of characters.

Knowing this we can now simply change the invoice to read exactly as the label but the importer has lost a couple of weeks in the process.

This from a country that regularly poisons people in their own country and around the world with dodgy foodstuffs, illegal and dangerous additives and totally non-compliant labelling.

Go figure!

Monday, December 26, 2011


This song gob-smacked me in 1981. I thought it one of the cleverest and catchy pop tunes ever and it still hits the spot.
If I substituted the word 'beat' for 'drinks' it would also be appropriate for Christmas and New Year drinking.

"Look at the sunrise
I look at it burn
I look into your eyes
Don't know where to turn
I'm gonna drift into that void
I'm flying through space, I'm an asteroid
Time doesn't take place when you're paranoid
I'm thinking about you, and nothing else
Thinking about you, you're thinking about me
Thinking about you, I'm counting the beat
Thinking about you
Thinking about me
Thinking about just you and me, la da de de, there ain't no place I'd rather be
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!
I'm bleeding to death
On a cloudless day
A three, a four heartbeat
A waltzin' away...
Oooh ooh, oo oo
Oooh ooh, oo oo
Oooh ooh, oo oo
Oooh ooh, oo oo
I'm counting the beat 2 3 4 5, I'm feeling the heat to be alive
I'm counting the beat 6 7 8 9, I'm wishing that you,
That you were mine
Thinking about you, you're thinking about me
Thinking about you and counting the beat
Thinking about you
Thinking about me
Thinking about you...
Thinking about me...
Thinking about you.....
Thinking about,
Just you and me, la da de de, there ain't no place I'd rather be
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da
La da de da, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da"
I'm moving a bit slow this morning, not crawling exactly but I haven't gone running, kayaking or golfing so far.
Normally I count the drinks I consume or at least have a fair idea of the quantity as I invariably only drink wine.

One glass fine - usually when cooking.
Two glasses OK
Three glasses better
Four glasses - oops, gone over half the bottle
Five glasses - that's a bottle gone, glad its a Friday night
Six glasses - now why on earth did I open that second bottle?
Seven glasses - where was the count, better start from the beginning
Eight glasses - ..................................................................................

Now one swallow doesn't make a summer and eight swallows doesn't make an alcoholic but really, I'd rather not go beyond the five.
The trouble is, at festive occasions it is easily to lose track of the drinks. Yesterday, after a good and healthy walk we went next door to the neighbours for Christmas drinks. This was very pleasant and I had three (smallish) glasses of bubbles. This was Deutz Methode which is always a good buy around Christmas time. I did detect a bit of simplicity though and worry that too much specialling has made them engineer the wine downwards (less time on lees perhaps).
Anyway, after these three glasses (Her Indoors had two) we we went home to prepare our Christmas dinner that this year we were having on our own. I opened a bottle of Veuve Cliquot NV. This is a good Marque and not as sweet as its cousin Moet & Chandon. I bought it from Countdown supermarket at a ridiculous mark-down so had a bit of a saving there.

A word of caution. Never buy Champagne off a shelf whether in a supermarket or a bottle store. The wine exposed to sunlight and fluorescent light will be dull, not flat exactly, but will have lost some of its pzazz. when you are paying $50 plus its that pzazz that you want. I always ask for a bottle to be taken out of a carton.
We both had two glasses of Champagne before dinner which was roast lamb (Her Indoors had left the very large chicken in the fridge back in Auckland) and vegetables followed by her sublime trifle (the sponge liberally dosed with La Grande Passion (Grand Marnier's passion-fruit liqueur that we have had for many years).
With the meal we had two glasses each of Marie Zelie 2003 Pinot Noir. This is the Martinborough Vineyards wine that is still going powerfully.

By this time I was feeling a bit tired and went to bed before 11. This morning as I said was a slow start.
How many drinks had I had?
I counted - La da de dee, la da de da, la da de da, la da de da - Seven!

Now that may not seem that much but the first three were on an empty stomach so I guess my body would have been happier with at least one less.

Oh well. Another walk will be on the cards today sometime.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I bought a couple of cases of pretty good Pinot Noir this week off a wine-selling website I use. I am always on the hunt for good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on this site where winemakers with surplus wines sell them off cheap.

I bought Muddy Water Pinot Noir for $21 a bottle not long ago and have seen it in Glengarry recently for $87.00 a bottle. The wine was superb - the price even better.

The wine I bought this week was also from Waipara (in my mind the source of New Zealand's best Pinot Noir and Riesling). The recommended retail price is $39.99. The special price is $14.99. This is a whopping $25 off per bottle. The wine is bloody good and I am happy.

The winery gives 10% commission to the website owner. Are they happy? They obviously would like to sell it for a higher price. If it was retailed at $39.99 then after a retailer mark-up of 45% say then they could theoretically wholesale it for $24.50 (GST included). They are then giving away at least $10 per bottle by selling it through this clearance site. Why? Because it is a 2009 vintage wine. They obviously have 2010 vintage in bottle. 2011 vintage in barrel and tank. There is the 2012 vintage looming. Pressure on stocks vs low sales volume in depressed markets. Entry into New Zealand retail outlets is becoming increasingly difficult as supermarkets gain market share and want cheaper sell-in prices so that they can discount heavily. All these reasons add up to a winery having to let wine go at a crazily low price.

Are they losing money though? They are certainly not making the money that they most likely forecast some years ago. If that forecast was to a lending bank and not to themselves and supporting friends and family then they are in trouble as we have seen with some wine companies that have gone to the wall recently. These though, to be fair, have bought in high at the top of the market with expectations that the industry was going to continue to boom. It is not unlike the property market or pyramid schemes.

Here is a rough (very rough) production costing for a bottle of wine. This is a very broad average but is fair when considering an expensive quality bottle of wine. Big companies, mass producing big brands have much lower costs but this will suffice for this exercise.

Winery overheads
Carton (share)
Bottling cost
Excise and ALAC

Total, say
$7.05 per bottle.

With a RRP of $39.99 even with retailer mark-up of 45% and a decent wholesale margin there is still a whopping great brand/marketing/image component. This is called the Hype. Now there's nothing wrong with the hype - Champagne producers have got away with this for years. Their per bottle costs given the volumes they make is probably not too different and yet they command RRP's of $60 to $160 per bottle.
I would always caution buyers though when buying the fairly standard wines that want $40 plus off you. Is that Chardonnay really worth $60? Does that Waiheke or Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blend or Syrah deserve a price tag of $80? Probably not but hey! If you want it then buy it, but always check out the discount websites first.

By the way. I'm not immune to hype myself. For Christmas I am getting a bottle of Martinborough Vineyards Marie Zelie Pinot Noir 2003 out of the cellar. I paid $170 a bottle for this a few years back. Apart from the outrageously expensive packaging the bottle of wine couldn't have cost more than $10 or $12 to make. Hype? yes. Good drinking? It has been for the other bottles I've had and I'm looking forward to this next one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The New Zealand wine industry is doing it again.
Previously I identified how some wine producers were getting off the track here:




Now, not satisfied with trying to convert Sauvignon Blanc into a sparking variant (have you tried it? Bloody awful) some wide-boys have added red wine to it to make (puke) Sauvignon Blanc Rose. Yuk! I guess this came about because some desperate bastard, in a hurry for a drink, poured Sauvignon Blanc into a glass that had the remnants of the horrible Marlborough Merlot that he or she couldn't finish. The pinky mess that resulted created a kind of Eureka moment in this inebriates fuddled brain. Now, thanks to: wineries overloaded with a new vintage looming; marketing wannabes needing to prove themselves; sales people running out of promotional ideas other than discounting; and, a fickle buying public that has no frigging taste or idea and what do we get ? .................






In a previous post I mentioned one of the NZ Industry's favourite marketing tactic

Why can't the industry, or at least some of the major players who have enough wine supply to make a difference, just get on with the job of improving the quality, packaging, marketing and distribution of Sauvignon Blanc (the normal one) that has put New Zealand on the map. Stick to the knitting you fools.
Its time that the real Sauvignon Blanc fought back.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

festival [ˈfɛstɪvəl]

festival [ˈfɛstɪvəl]n1. a day or period set aside for celebration or feasting, esp one of religious significance
2. any occasion for celebration, esp one which commemorates an anniversary or other significant event
3. an organized series of special events and performances, usually in one place4. Archaic a time of revelry; merrymaking
5. (modifier) relating to or characteristic of a festival
[from Church Latin fēstivālis of a feast, from Latin festīvus festive]

Well that's what the on-line dictionary says.
When it comes to wine festivals this might be a better description:

or·gy  (ôrj)n. pl. or·gies1. A revel involving unrestrained indulgence, especially sexual activity.
2. Uncontrolled or immoderate indulgence in an activity: . See Synonyms at binge.
3. A secret rite in the cults of ancient Greek or Roman deities, typically involving frenzied singing, dancing, drinking, and sexual activity.

Which better describes what the once-elegant and entertaining events in New Zealand are becoming like.

I have attended and been involved in: the Marlborough Wine Festival from the very early days; the inaugural Taste Martinborough and 15 following events; Canterbury Wine Festival; Auckland food and wine festivals; Devonport Wine Festivals and many others in New Zealand and overseas. Over the years these events have steadily increased in size and popularity but at a corresponding decrease in good behaviour, sobriety and common sense.
This is not to say that earlier festivals were without drunkenness and licentious behaviour. For many years one of the add-on attractions of the helicopter flights at the Marlborough Festival was the people bonking amongst the vines.
I remember once at Toast Martinborough when we took a short cut back to Palliser to get our bus there was a couple going at it by the track. Her Indoors observed that the guy was particularly well-endowed. I ushered her away saying that the poor chap was deformed.
Drunken and half-naked young women have become de rigeur at any events where alcohol is consumed whether it be a folk festival, a music festival or a food and wine festival.

Hey, I'm not complaining but the organisers of these events need to stop hiding behind the facade of 'culture' and face up to the fact that wine (or beer) + sun + time + music + festivity = recipe for disaster in some cases.

The 2011 Toast Martinborough is a case in point. Now admittedly there are two sides to every story and the wowsers have been doing a 'beat up' on this but there is no smoke without fire. See:

I remember serving wine at a festival at the viaduct a few years ago and seeing a woman, drunk, fall over backwards still holding her glass. She cracked her skull and had to be carted away by ambulance.

I'm not a misery-guts and I myself enjoy attending these events and, leaving the car at home, having a few (too many) glasses of wine. They have to be properly policed though because unfortunately there are a lot of people who just want to get pissed and whether it is beer, RTD's or Central Otago Pinot Noir to help them in this sometimes just doesn't matter.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The Chinese wine market has massively increased over the last 10 years with imported wines showing the greatest growth. Imports are still small compared to the domestic wine market being at either 85% or 90% depending on whose sets of figures you look at but certainly there is a lot more Chinese wine being drunk than imports. French wine still dominates the imports at about 50% but in-roads are being made with Australian, South African and American wines both North and South. In volume terms we are talking of a market of over 125 million cases with about 12 million cases being imports. That's a lot of wine and even if the French are getting the biggest part of it there is plenty of opportunity for everyone else - and it is growing at about 20% per year. While per capita consumption of wine in China is very low at about a bottle per head this still accounts for about 1.35 billion bottles!
Where does this put New Zealand wine? Well, fortunately for us the majority of the French wine imported (and dare I say it the American and South African wine) is basically crap. New Zealand wine, once tried, will stand head and shoulders above the other offerings and will most likely be on a par or just above the Australian offerings although Australia has an advantage over us in value reds.
The problem is though that the growth has stimulated 'cowboy' operators who all want a piece of the action. It is frontier land out there with the old Westward Ho! mentality being replaced by Eastward Ho!

I work for a wine company that exports to China. Almost everyday we get requests from potential agents and distributors who "have a relative in Beijing, Ningbho, Shanghai etc. who owns a chain of restaurants and wants New Zealand wine". Most of them are chancers and tyre kickers with no understanding of the market and the complexities of exporting. There is a threat if too many of these Chinese Cowboys

get their hands on too many brands. China, whilst a big country with a huge population and many large cities, still needs an orderly and disciplined approach to imports in order to properly manage the growth.
Most of the importers/distributors whether legitimate or dodgy are aware of the super cheap prices of the red wines from Australia, South Africa, France and South America and ask for New Zealand reds at about $5 a bottle. Fortunately, due to our small production we (New Zealand wine producers)  are able to refuse to supply at crazy prices and promote on the basis of quality. Lets hope that the emerging big players (ARA, Yealands) and existing big guys (Constellation, Pernod Ricard, Villa Maria and Fosters) don't get a rush of blood to the head and meet Chinese demands for low prices as they have repeatedly done in UK, Australia and USA. We don't have enough feet!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


What would the Nuova Lazio Wine Club be like? I guess it would be fronted by someone like this guy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Annat by Loch Torridon is the place that my Scottish ancestors came from before they sailed to Novia Scotia and on to Australia and New Zealand. Here AA Gill (acerbic English food writer) describes a dining experience at the Torridon Inn at Annat

Table talk

Our intrepid restaurant critic goes north of the border to Scotland, where he visits a 'camp Caledonian cliché, all stag heads and tartan'

AA Gill Published: 9 October 2011
The more minimalist interior of the restaurant complete with open fireThe world’s largest sperm bank. Now there’s a thought. I imagine it to be a bit like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but without the midgets, or the chocolate, and not quite Wonka. Cryos — slogan “Come again” or “One in a million”.
It’s not, actually. It’s “We know a man who can”. It’s in Denmark, so it’s probably something like “Versperm durch Technik”.
They’ve just made an announcement: they’re not accepting any more redhead sperm.
They’re up to here with it. Their nitrogen urn runneth over. They’ve two litres of the stuff, and demand is flatlining. Women tick the boxes for clever, athletic, artistic, puts down the seat, cries at films but pretends he doesn’t, always goes to see what the noise in the middle of the night is, naked, carrying a cricket bat, and then they turn the page and tick no golf, no comb-overs and no redheads.
The Torridon Inn
AddressAnnat, by Achnasheen, Wester Ross, IV22 2EY
They say that redheads are going to die out. In three or four generations, ginger may only be available in a bottle, or some weird, embarrassing throwback. Maybe this is our Neanderthal moment. We lived with the Neanderthals for millenniums, and occasionally got together. You know, Cro-Magnon with benefits, or just drunk after the solstice. Then we went off them, and the neander-knuckle-scuffers, as we homos used to call them, died out, and we’ve missed them. Well, I expect someone’s missed them. So Cryos are offering special deals to Irish and Scots women, because red hair is part of their culture and, frankly, they’re not that choosy.
I wonder if sperm banks are offering incentives? Two for one? Bring a friend? All redhead shots half-price before eight o’clock? A sperm bank putting up a sign saying no dogs, no nutters and no redheads says something that I’ve suspected for some time. The amount of prejudice in the world is constant. It just gets moved on, like delinquents at bus stops, or gypsies in Kent, and it’s open season on gingers. The human rights hasn’t got round to them yet. Well, you’ll be sorry when they’re gone, and I speak as someone with a Neanderthal forehead. It’s either that or Klingon.
I’m writing this in Scotland. I come up here to the west coast every year for a week’s stalking. The country is having a late Indian summer, God’s consolation for messing up July and August. Up here, I’m told, the rain has barely drawn breath since last December. The TV weather map is all smiley sun, except for one wee cloud in the top-left-hand corner, and that’s the one I’m sitting under. I stepped out at 9 this morning and walked till 4.30, and got wetter than I’ve ever been. I’ve been in bars that were drier than the hill today. The rain hissed like smoke across the peat hags and streamed in horizontal waterfalls off the granite rocks, and I couldn’t have been happier. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.
There were a couple of hours that were sunny yesterday afternoon, so I drove to the glen next door. In 12 years I’ve never gone the 12 miles to Loch Torridon — jings, but it’s beautiful. The loch is huge, and the village of little white cottages hunkers along the strand. Behind them, the mountains rise like tall storeys. It’s quiet and charming, but also elemental and brutal. Trying to write about the Highlands landscape is like trying to copy a Landseer with an Etch A Sketch. You shoot your wad of exclamatory adjectives almost immediately, and the hills and the heather, the pines and the racing byrnes look back at you as if to say: “Is that the best you’ve got, pal? Can you nae muster a better army of similes, metaphors and allusions than that? Because, frankly, we did nae get up this morning and put on all this finery simply for you to stammer, ‘Wow, awesome’, and go slack-jawed. We’ve been described by the best. Some of the most limpid, lyrical observations have been frotted all over us. So unless you’ve got something pretty damn good to say, you’re better off saving your breath for your porridge. Is that an exclamation point in your pocket?”
The Torridon Hotel was built for Lord Lovelace. There’s a name for the sperm bank. It glowers from the stand of pines that lesser scribes might refer to as “aromatically majestic”. It is built in the odd Scotia vernacular, that is a northern variation of gothic revival, except that it doesn’t revive anything that ever was. It is the turreted and crenellated evocation of Walter Scott novels. The southern equivalent might be all English country houses being designed to illustrate Harry Potter.
I came here for lunch. It recommends itself. Inside, it’s Victorian camp Caledonian cliché, all stag heads and tartan. There was nobody about, so I rang an oversized bell on the desk. It made a noise like summoning the Kraken. After slightly too long, an efficient no-nonsense lady appeared instead, and asked me what I wanted. Lunch, I ventured, with a question mark. “We do sandwiches in there.” She pointed to a Monarch of the Glen memorial drawing room. I was hoping for something rather more sustaining. “Oh, well, there’s the bistro inn behind the car park for that sort of thing,” she said, with the inflection of my people that firmly implies, “Do you think I’m here simply for your convenience?”
The inn was behind the car park. Indeed, the car park was the featured view. It’s a wooden Portakabin containing a sticky, dark bar, with a silent TV showing Scottish football, a blinking fruit machine, no customers and a couple of Australian waitress-barmaids.
We were shown to a table where I could admire a couple of Vauxhalls. I’m not going to dwell on lunch, because they didn’t. I took Emma, the antiques dealer. She began with pan-seared scallops, crushed peas and a rocket salad. At best it was unpleasant. The scallops were wan goitres. The peas shrunken and frozen. The rocket salad some child’s pressed flower collection.
The only identifiable fish in the fish pie was salmon, which is the one fish that you should never, ever be put in a fish pieI had a wheel of Stornoway black pudding with apple and a cider reduction. The cider reduction was reduced to a skid mark. The black pudding was anaemic and greasy. The apple was brown and wizened. We could have had the home-made soup with the crusty bread. Why is the bread that accompanies soup always notably crusty? It’s like a Viking chieftain, Brod the Crusty. Why is the soup invariably cauliflower and stilton? Has anyone ever eaten this for pleasure?
For main course, Emma had scampi in a basket. The only agreeable thing about this was the basket. It came with chips, peas and home-made taramasalata. The scampi had done a runner from the batter, leaving mostly empty shells, like dried moth cocoons.
As for the homemade tartare sauce, it was as welcome as homemade toothpaste. I had fish pie, a large butter dish with a mildly piscine sludge, covered with a thick sputum-coloured scab of melted, nameless cheese. There were more of the ancient, cryogenicised peas, and dead chips.
The only identifiable fish was salmon, which is the one fish that should never be put in a fish pie. There ought to be Celtic punishments for people who put salmon in fish pie. We could have had a burger, or a gammon steak with the excitement of an egg and pineapple.
Pudding was a hideous sticky toffee, of course. This menu is a catalogue of derisively defunct dishes, an Oxfam shop of food you hated first time round. This stuff is as bad as you can eat anywhere in Europe, but is what we all expect from Scotland, outside the Central Belt — wilfully, stubbornly, f***-you-Jimmy awful. Here, just to recap, is the sort of hotel visitors love, with one of the great views in the world, sitting in a country that produces the best raw ingredients in the universe.
So they put the dining room in a hut over the car park and serve ham with pineapple, burgers and cauliflower soup.
It doesn’t just beggar belief, it rather concerns belief. It beggars common sense, hospitality, tourism and joy. You have to work very hard to come up with something this dire, day in, day out. What does it cost? Who cares. It’s a hopeless waste, and you’re never going to go. The Australian service was charming.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Stupid New Zealand winemakers, tired of making Sauvignon Blanc or, more likely, tired of the competition they get from other New Zealand winemakers making Sauvignon Blanc are now trying to do a beat-up on Gruner Veltliner.

"Gruner Veltliner could be next NZ Sauvignon, say winemakers"
Screams the headline on a wine news website. It turns out that Forrest Estate a small Marlborough (and Hawkes Bay) producer has had some success with the varietal, shipped a tiny amount to the UK which got a couple of listings and sold out quickly. Then some prat of a wine writer/expert raved about it. Well, let me tell you something, winewriter/experts would rave about their cats piss if it provided something different for them to talk about to differentiate themselves from the thousands of other wineriter/experts who are all competing against each other.
Why am I so vitriolic? I wrote this post a while ago on the same subject:

and was annoyed to see more 'excited' reports on the varietal.


Monday, October 10, 2011


Old, fat and suffering from gout is the traditional image of a Port drinker. At least I don't have gout.

We have a few old vintage ports in the cellar but never drink them. If I am to have port it is a very small glass so the option of opening a bottle rarely comes up. Vintage port, unlike ruby or tawny port, not to mention the robust variants from australia, need to be consumed fairly soon after opening kind of like the way a table wine needs to be (within one or two days of being uncorked).

Last night we had a progressive dinner with two of the neighbouring households who were up for the weekend. This happily coincided with the rugby where we watched the South Africa vs Australia game at one house along with pre-dinner drinks and appetisers and the New Zealand vs Argentina game at our house with the main course and the third neighbours dessert. As I knew that there were going to be enough of us (6 adults) I decanted a bottle of 1970 Offley Boa Vista.

The cork was in good condition although compressed which is expected for a 41 year old wine (39 years in bottle) and the wine was in outstanding condition, good for another decade or two. There was a fairly substantial crust which had dropped out to the bottom of the bottle as I had let the wine stand for a fortnight before opening and my trusty silver funnel  see:

allowed me to decant the wine cleanly off it.
This crusty sludge actually tasted great and I used to know someone who would spread it on toast like a jam. He's dead now!
The wine was lovely and clear, shiny almost. With age it had become quite pale being an orangy/pink colour. The nose was still fresh and raisiny but with a bit of 'rancio' (maderised) character. The flavour was rich and fruity with a medium weight to it. This is a good example of an aged vintage, not as big and heavy as the 1970 Warres and Taylors that I have in the cellar but was a good indicator of the development of these which should be good for quite a lot longer.
I bought this wine in about 1974 for about $8. To buy it now (it is available on auction sites and in vintage bottle stores in UK, expect to pay about a hundred quid.

Friday, September 30, 2011


.... on Selaks Heritage Reserve 2010 Chardonnay as I am awaiting some information that I requested on this wine but I will start proceedings.

..... historically have been the wines put aside year to year in case the following year's vintage fails and, in time, came to represent the best that a winemaker was producing. The word on the label 'Reserve' meant something to the purchaser and consumer and prompted purchasing and drinking decisions.
Wikipedia is helpful with its description here:

"Reserve wine is a term given to a specific wine to imply that is of a higher quality than usual, or a wine that has been aged before being sold, or both. Traditionally winemakers would "reserve" some of their best wine rather than sell it immediately, coining the term.
In some countries the use of the term reserve/reserva/riserva is regulated, but in many places it is not. Sometimes, reserve wine originates from the best vineyards, or the best barrels, making it more special. Additionally, reserve wines might be made in a style suited to longer aging periods. However, in regions where the use is not regulated the mere presence of the term "reserve" on a wine label may be nothing but a marketing strategy. Indeed, in the case of one of the largest-selling premium wines, Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, every single bottle produced is "Vintner's Reserve." To indicate a genuine reserve wine, Kendall-Jackson had to resort to "Grand Reserve," which has caused some confusion among consumers."
Now I am a wine marketer and have been 'adventurous' in my descriptions of commercial wines when writing copy for back labels and wine notes. This is called hype and I guess is expected else why would anyone buy any commercial product from toilet paper to cheap cars based solely on advertising. When it comes to the more serious offerings where serious money is outlaid however I am a bit of a stickler and refuse to 'be adventurous'.

With regard to the accused - Selaks Heritage Reserve Chardonnay 2010, this is one in a new range released by Selaks brand (brand owners Constellation New Zealand). I bought it in a supermarket 'on special' at $13.99 and it has a recommended retail price of $19.99. Unfortunately nowadays these prices whether 'reccommended' or 'on-special' are all over the place and there is no longer a reliable guide to be followed by looking at the price of a wine and by that determining its quality. You either have to have some inside knowledge or be prepared to experiment by buying and trying (unless of course the wine is being 'tasted' in-store which I thoroughly support). The back label tells me that the wine is fair bursting with fruit flavours and to underline that mentions stonefruit, citrus, white peach and nectarine with a passing mention of Chardonnay. It also has an even more fleeting mention of the wood that a quality Chardonnay should experience by either barrel fermentation or maturation or both. It tells me, before the "crisp and lingering finish" that the wine has "a touch of oak". Great. Did the winemaker accidently bump into the tank when he was wheeling around his new oak barriques or is this spin doctor speak for the fact that some oak chips, oak planks or oak beans were added to the stainless steel tanks-full of Chardonnay somewhere during the process? The wine is fresh and does show good Chardonnay fruit characters that I expect from Hawke's Bay. It does not show good (and particularly not $19.99 RRP worth of) wood usage. As for the 'Reserve' part I can only think of the TV show Extras and the 'Are you 'aving a laugh' by-line.
As I said I am reserving judgement at the moment but all I have to go on is endorsement from the marketers.

"This is our best 'Reserve' wine and, by the way, our priests have never fiddled with little children"