Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I have had a love affair with wine for nearly 40 years and am still learning about the subject.

Years ago my wines of choice were French wines and in particular those from Bordeaux. These represented all that was great, noble, traditional and aspirational in the world of wine. Admittedly, at the time (70's into the 80's) this was largely the case as the great wines of Italy and Spain were not available and USA, Australia, New Zealand and other contenders hadn't properly hit their straps. I would buy First, Second and Third Growth Bordeaux at ridiculously cheap prices to taste, put away and sell later and freely drink Fourth and Fifth Growth Bordeaux as everyday wines. These lesser (classified) wines such as Talbot, Beychevelle, Batailley, Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Branaire-Ducru, Lafon-Rochet etc. were cheap as chips then but now cost an arm and a leg to buy. As prices started to go ballistic after the bloody Americans started to discover good wine (the new price growth now being stimulated by the Chinese), Bordeaux invented the 'Petit Chateaux' marketing idea whereby the previous negotiants and shippers 'Clarets' assumed grandiose names of past and fictitious Chateaux and even down to the "La Plume de Ma Tante" degree.
The top wines became more expensive as did the lesser wines and the newly introduced 'Chateaux' wines instead of filling a gap actually turned a lot of potential new Bordeaux entrant drinkers off and they went to other geographical regions for their Cabernets and Merlots.

I was guilty of the "It must be good as it is a classified French wine" thinking for many years and have fond, imprinted memories of the lovely First, Second and Third Growth Bordeaux wines that I've drunk.  I have actively supported the development of the New Zealand wine industry both as a consumer and as a driver and have experienced some great 'Bordeaux-type' varietals from Hawkes Bay and Waiheke. In the past these were relatively scarce and very vintage dependant. I am very happy now that the wines are plentiful and, with better clonal selection, site selection, viticultural and winemaking advances we can see consistently good examples coming through. They  are becoming so plentiful that those bastard supermarkets can now get their hands on them and discount the fuck out of them. Shame? Yes if it leads to the downward engineering that we have seen with our Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs but no if it encourages Kiwis to experiment and discover what is on offer.

Today I opened an Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2009. This wine's normal price is between $20 and $30 but I bought it at a supermarket a couple of months ago at way less than $20. It is great. Lovely colour and fresh plum and cherry nose. The taste is full and rich and lingering and well supported by good wood. Bloody good! Trying it while preparing dinner I thought back to the Bordeaux wines I was drinking 'everyday' in the 70's and 80's and felt that quality-wise it is above the Fourth and Fifth Growth wines (that are now in the $80 plus area) and more akin to wines like Kirwan, Giscours and Lagrange that are Third Growth Bordeaux and command prices in the hundreds now.
Fashion, snobbishness, scarcity and uniqueness all lead to higher pricing but in reality, if a glass of Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2009 was put beside a glass of Chateau Kirwan 2008 or 2009 I don't think that it would be embarrassed.


Second fiddle said...


Second fiddle said...

My darling said i should have a wine tonight. We have a breif respite while the kids go to the South Africa- Tonga game. As usual i went for the cheapest wine at Pak and save. "Blackwood Unoaked Chardonnay". &6.95. My goodness it is sweet and lip licking good. Almost like one of of those late picked south african desert wines.. what were they called?

THE WINE GUY said...

They were variously named in order of sweetness:
Special Late Harvest
Noble late Harvest

Really though Second, if your unwooded Chardonnay was sweet like even the Special Late Harvest I suggest that you forgot yourself, thought that you were drinking a cup of tea and added two spoons of sugar to it.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

Nice post. I went through similar stages as you, with only French wine being "good", but I never developed the expertise that you obviously have. I think I got pissed to easily, and then I forget what I've drunk and what it tasted of.

I've never really been greatly disappointed with many 'supermarket' wines, except for that bloody aweful Corban's White Label.
I wouldn't use it to disinfect my toilet.

Richard (of RBB) said...

Yes, Corban's White Label is like dishwashing liquid - only to be drunk when you're really pissed.


"Yes, Corban's White Label is like dishwashing liquid - only to be drunk when you're really pissed."

Do you blow interesting bubbles then when you piddle?