“Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”
One of my students, who moved to NZ from Brazil, asked if there was any connection between what you pay for a bottle of wine and its quality. My first reaction was to answer ‘none at all’, but I kept quiet and instead the class enjoyed a lively discussion covering appellations, free markets and consumer demand. In the end, we decided that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent bottle and there is plenty of choice under $2o.
In fact a glance at the prices of top end NZ wine shows that if anything, these wines are relatively good value But it is the middle ground, those wines retailing for between $35-$60, whose price tags are often the hardest to justify.
If I hear a winemaker tell me once more that ‘we only make a small amount so I have to charge that price’ I’ll scream. Usually these are the ones who feel they bask in a little of the reflected glory from their more illustrious neighbours and so feel justified in charging top dollar. Is it any wonder that the production of some of these wineries is often to be seen in the bargain basement section? Likewise wines made from new varietals. I’m certain that part of the initial success of Marlborough sauvignon blanc was that in addition to offering a unique flavour profile and high quality, importantly it was very competitively priced. When Montana Sauvignon Blanc was selling for ￡3.99, comparable quality Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé was upwards of ￡7. It was an easy task to get wine drinkers to experiment. But when emerging varietals are priced higher than good quality imported examples (I’m thinking gruner veltliner here), its harder to justify the price tag.
February sees two new releases from Millton Vineyards. The 2011 Chenin Blanc Te Arai Vineyard $28 is all quince, beeswax and ripe pear with real weight and richness; more textural than chenins from cooler regions. In fact it is almost chardonnay-like in its breadth of flavour. I liked it a great deal. The 2011 Riverpoint Vineyard Viognier $26 has a heady, ecclesiastical aroma with touches of incense and spice. Rich, mouthfilling and weighty but with a line of acidity that lifts the profile and prevents the wine becoming overblown.
But the real joy is that wines represent great value for money. Both retail for under $30, which taking into account provenance, winemaking skill and sheer enjoyment, seems like a bargain to me.