Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

New Zealand Wine Glut

January 6, 2009

On January 1 the Marlborough Express reported there is a surplus of New Zealand wine on the horizon and also concern how some lower quality fruit might compromise the image of New Zealand wine around the world.

I think the panic is very premature and is the natural evolution of the industry. It is not a bad thing to have bulk wine produced for lower price points coming from New Zealand. California has a very robust bulk or cheap wine industry and the boutique wine industry thrives too.

In fact, the boutique wine industry in California is so robust they have their own group called Family Winemakers of California who offer legislative and marketing support for these micro producers.

It may come as a surprise to some in New Zealand, but you all ready have cheap and inexpensive wine in the USA.untitled-22 This ad from 2006 shows some very low price points at a time when press releases were heralding demand was exceeding supply.

You will notice a couple of very inexpensive wines from California too. The fact they exist has not “killed” the wine industry. It is just a different set of customers and expectations.

Someone has to scavenge the bottom to keep the system clean.

Fearing the dark is silly, put this low end wine in a box and move on.

The New Zealand wine story is very much like California with both large global wine companies and the micro producers who excel at crafting fine wine for a small select group of consumers. California does not produce one and only one tier of quality and consumers do not punish the region for doing so.

It might be time to take a page from the California play book and have a similar group representing “the little guys” in New Zealand.  Or at least, for those that believe they are in the fine wine business to stand up and perform a Haka to the world and share their unique and wonderful stories.

This is where New Zealand excels with a rich mosaic of stories to share that are very real, very personal and most of all, evolving on a daily basis. With easy to use and low cost social media tools available today, everyone should be engaged with the global conversation of wine.

Welcome to the newest chapter of the New Zealand wine experience and Web 2.0.

The article mentioned can be read here Marlborough Express.

PS. The word glut was theirs not mine.

Wine Additives

December 11, 2008

I came across this post by Nick Stephens  the other day and naturally the comment about New Zealand wine caught my attention. I suspect the wine served with dinner at Nick’s would be pretty special.

The comment was:

“I also met 2 charming Antipodeans from New Zealand who were working in Bristol to whom I apologised beforehand about part of my talk re the additives in cheap New Zealand wines.

Their reply was “Please don’t apologise. It’s a well known fact back at home that the cheaper wines are produced for the masses and the locals won’t buy it – so we send it over to you!”

The additive comment reminded me of an article some months ago in the LA Times about exactly this subject. It is a pretty lengthy article and very informative to read thru. These methods are most likely used in all wine producing regions and not exclusive to New Zealand.

It is a good reminder that some wines begin in the vineyard and are finished in the lab.

Good effort by Bonny Doon to lead the way in telling us what goes in the bottle.

The  two Kiwi’s did get it right when they replied they keep the good stuff at home. Finding these New Zealand gems really is a treasure hunt. When you find them, you will know you are in a good wine shop or restaurant.

Torlesse Pinot Noir

November 17, 2008
For the past decade, New Zealand has been a rising star in the world of Pinot Noir. Bottlings from small producers like Torlesse showcase the beautiful character and elegance that result from careful nurturing in the vineyards and cellar. This Pinot has it all ? sweet plummy fruit, subtle spiciness and the refined complexity that mark a classic Pinot Noir. Torlesse winemaker Kym Rayner practically coddles this wine. He gains maximum color and full flavor extraction by fermenting in small vessels, hand-plunging the cap and allowing the wine to sit another 10 days on the grapeskins. In the classic Burgundian style, the wine is gently pressed in a traditional basket press and aged in French oak. Lots of work by Kym means an exceptional wine for us! This Pinot is excellent with lamb, beef and full-flavored pasta dishes.

Wines of Clos Marguerite

October 29, 2008
Meet Marguerite and learn a little about the special wines that are created by her and Jean Charles at their vineyard in Marlborough New Zealand. The vineyard is located on a river terrace above the Awatere River. Both Marguerite and Jean Charles agree that wines that are special and bring lasting memories begin in the vineyard. Today Marguerite talks about both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Formats available: Windows Media (.wmv)

New Zealand Country of the Year

October 28, 2008

Popular Australian TV travel show Getaway has named New Zealand “Country of the Year” for 2008. Click here to see for yourself.

Wine Reviewers Part Two

October 15, 2008

Yesterday I shared part one of an article published by Peter Klann from Little Raven Vineyards in Denver.

Part two is below. Peter’s contact details are at the end.

I think you will enjoy Peter’s thoughtful comments.

The problem with wine rating systems is that the score of the wine depends on the person doing the rating. While Mr. Parker is indeed consistent in his ratings, others may not be. Then add in the fact that so many people are giving scores; it is often difficult to know who gave the rating.

Michael De Loach, Vice President of Hook and Ladder Winery in Sonoma County, wonders if scoring mania is healthy for the industry. He says, “If Parker or Spectator don’t give you a high enough score, you can make up your own.” So what really does the “Number” mean?

The “Number” limits the spectrum of wines that sell well. There are grumblings in the industry that some wine makers care about their scores too much. Some will say that winemakers are fashioning their wines to please the palate of Mr. Parker and other high-profile critics. Some fear this worldwide influence of Mr. Parker who has been described as the planet’s most powerful critic will eventually lead to the homogenization of wine. (For more on the homogenization of wine, check out the 2004 documentary called Mondovino directed by Jonathan Nossiter.)

What if wine was judged by its human and geographical context? Can a “Number” capture the relationship between a place and the people who live and grow the grapes?

What if wine were rated by how it tasted when it is swallowed rather than spit into a bucket? What if wine was evaluated by how it paired with food? Can a “Number” account for the intersection of aroma, memory and pleasure that gives wine its enduring appeal? What if ratings were given to small, artisan producers and not just large “corporate” producers?

You won’t find a lot of numbers and scores at Little Raven Vineyards. Scores are fine for some things, but we don’t think you can “count” taste. We choose our wines the time-honored way – we taste them ourselves.

We understand the best wines express a place, a person and a point in the historical continuum. We know that individuals have a wide variety of preferences when it comes to style and stock our store accordingly. We seek out small producers and unusual grapes. And most importantly, we look for wines that are made with honesty and passion, so that we can offer our customers the same wines that we’d be pleased to put on our tables.

By Email:

By Phone:

Visit us:
We are conveniently located in LoDo near the corner of 15th and Little Raven Street, right at the Millennium Bridge . If you need help finding us, try mapquest or give
us a call.

1590 Little Raven, # 175
Denver, CO 80202

Welcome to Bannock Brae Estate and Central Otago

October 14, 2008

Heres an exciting find for fans of Pinot noir! New Zealands southerly Central Otago region has rapidly developed a reputation for expressing a special “terroir”, one that is unique throughout the world. Though this region shares a similar latitude with Burgundy, Central Otagos warmer, drier climate allows this persnickety grape to ripen more fully. The resulting wines exhibit distinctively deep, fruity attributes that are much-loved by Pinot noir enthusiasts.

Wine Reviewers

October 14, 2008


Peter Klann at Little Raven Vineyards in Denver recently published some history and comments on the role of wine ratings. The paragraphs below are his. Part two will be republished tomorrow. His contact details are at the end of the commentary.

In 1978, Robert Parker Jr., lawyer turned self-employed wine critic, introduced the 100 point scoring system to the wine world. Consumers intuitively understood this system with 96 to 100 being an extraordinary wine, 90 to 95 an excellent wine, and 80 to 89 is above average to good. Mr. Parker fashioned himself as a crusading consumer advocate on a mission to enlighten the discriminating wine buyer.

The method for determining “The Number” is to taste batches to wine together with each bottle covered in individual paper bags. Each wine is swirled, sniffed, and spat into a bucket, and notes are taken on the aromas and flavors. After tasting several wines against each other, a score is attached to each wine according to the taster’s judgment.

As Mr. Parker’s influence grew, retailers started quoting Parker points in advertisements and other promotional materials. “The Number” became an excellent way for marketers to promote wine. And soon its effects were felt throughout the industry. “The Number” helped elevate the overall quality of wine, contributed to the growth of the wine market in the U.S., and perhaps even influenced the popularity of certain grapes. But its most direct impact may be in the way wine is sold.

For better or for worse, “The Number” is proving an effective stand-in for the knowledgeable, wine shop sommelier sales person. Instead of relying on your wine shop sommelier to know your specific likes and dislikes and to assist you in selecting good matches for your palate, retailers simply fall back on “The Number.”

So whenever a good number is available (and a good number is anything 90 or above), the wine is heavily promoted through distributors, retailers, magazines, on web sites, and in “shelf talkers.” The wine flies off the shelf based on the taste of one individual determining a rating.

Does this person have the same tastes as you? A rating system that draws a distinction between a Cabernet scoring 90 and one receiving an 89 implies a precision of the senses that even many wine critics agree that human beings do not possess. Ratings are quick judgments that a single individual renders early in the life of a bottle of wine that, once expressed numerically, magically transform the nebulous and subjective into the authoritative and objective.

Mr. Parker tends to favor the very big, alcoholic and fruit-forward wines; he rates this style in the 90 to 100 point range. The wines he dismisses in the 80-point range tend to be the kind of more subtle and often elegant wines. If you like big and fruit-forward style of wine, you will most likely agree with most of Mr. Parker’s ratings (He is very consistent.) Others have jumped on the numbers game and there are many others rating wines too such as The Wine Spectator, The Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits Magazine. These publications also use a 100-point scale.

But is a review from Robert Parker more or less valid than a Wine Spectator score? Some wine shops require distributors to submit scores when they offer wines for placement, but how valid are these scores? Does any number or piece of press constitute a valid measure? Is the wine critic for Sacramento Bee a solid source, or the Albuquerque Journal? Do they know what you appreciate about the wines you drink?

The bottom line is wine preference is highly individualistic; so unless your tastes are the same as the reviewer, disappointment is sure to follow. If you are interested in buying wine based on numbers, it’s always a good idea to go back and read the notes to see who produced the score. The important point is to find someone whose taste in wines runs parallel to your own and see what they thought about that wine you’d like to try or buy. Stay tuned . . . more to come next week.

By Email:

By Phone:

Visit us:
We are conveniently located in LoDo near the corner of 15th and Little Raven Street, right at the Millennium Bridge . If you need help finding us, try mapquest or give
us a call.

1590 Little Raven, # 175
Denver, CO 80202

New Wine Magazine

September 26, 2008

Looking for a different slant on the world of wine?

Check out Sommelier Journal who is about to celebrate its 1st year anniversary.

Their home page describes the magazine as follows:

  • – “Whether you’re new to the business or you’ve been in the industry for years, Sommelier Journal brings all the up-to-date information a professional needs every month. From the latest trends to overviews of wine regions, from recommendations of interesting, food-friendly wines to wine news, Sommelier Journal is the Essential Guide for Wine Professionals.”

The New Zealand Wine Journey

September 10, 2008

Many years ago I saw a ROM exercise machine in a ski shop in Aspen and it seemed like something right out of the movie “Back to the Future”. ROM is a highly specialized, $14,615 retail, Range of Motion exercise machine that will provide a complete workout in four minutes. It has nothing to do with wine, it is the typical steps a ROM purchaser goes thru that is the inspiration for my story.  I recently saw a ROM ad and thought there are similar steps for most people who are learning about New Zealand wines and foods. (the ROM ad is at the end of the post)

Ten Steps Most People Experience in Discovering New Zealand Wine

  1. Aware New Zealand is a country in the Southern Hemisphere.  
  2. Encounters a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, most likely from a high volume producer and enjoys the experience.
  3. Continues to passively explore other and similar offerings.
  4. Plateaus out at this level for some time.
  5. Revealation! New Zealand has so much more to offer, like Napa or Burgundy, has many facets of people and places. Moves beyond ratings and learns from retailers and sommeliers to explore and trust own palate.
  6. Discovery process begins – Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Bubbles  – all handcrafted by individuals.
  7. At this point, learns in the global wine business “family” is used by some of the largest wine companies in the world. Not bad – not good. Just an indicator that change is often taking place and highlights a marketing need to be authentic. The exception of course is when you can visit and look the winemaker in the eye, you know you are in the right place. This is goal – to discover the people and places.
  8. Expands awareness of varietals, people, regions, terrior, foods and travel experiences. This extends the joy.
  9. Now amabassador for “All Things New Zealand” especially food, wine and travel.
  10. New era of enjoyment from sharing these New Zealand stories.

I first saw the ROM about 20 years ago, my New Zealand story began in 1984 when I met my wife Leslie.

I am at step ten. Where are you?

Exceptional handcrafted wines of New Zealand for enthusiasts across the USA. Wines for food, friends and memories.

Here is the ROM ad.