Stamping out wine hypocrisy

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I used to run a wine club. It was called ‘Wine Club’ and there were only two rules. The first rule was you do not talk about wine club. The second rule was no fighting. 

Wine Club consisted of a few friends, chipping in some cash to taste wines that none of us could afford. All keen to soak up as much wine information as possible, we tasted widely and fed off each other’s knowledge.

Wine clubs come in many forms and it’s great to see Gibbston Valley Winery’s receiving a solid following.
Gibbston Valley Winery’s Wine Club provides members with the personal touch, inviting them to picking days, making them feel part of the operation and, of course, offering their wine at a special, member’s-only price. It’s a great way to sell wine and vital in creating brand ambassadors that will spread the word. In an over-supplied market where consumers are looking for a more personalised experience and value for money, it seems like the perfect tonic. 

Which brings me to some wine hypocrisy. 

I met a young sommelier in Auckland a couple of weeks ago. It was at the Taste of New Zealand after-party where Queenstown-based acting star Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks pinot noir was being poured like water. 

In the midst of it all, this enthusiastic and knowledgeable chap made the mind-boggling statement that, in his opinion, Central Otago would never be more than a table wine producing area. Table wine being the kind of stuff you find in boxes or carafes in Italian restaurants. 

This kind of inane comment wouldn’t usually bother me. Also, it was late, and it was a party. But I couldn’t let it go – the reason being this guy works for a distributor that represents one of Central Otago’s best producers. Also, said distributor bottles a pinot noir from this region, under their own brand, and sells it to at least one of our top hotels, for a price that’s way above table wine. 

Everybody is entitled to their opinion and I agree that Central Otago still has a long way to go in terms of quality when compared to the best of Burgundy. 

But Central Otago has helped to open up pinot noir to a larger audience, breaking down the barriers that Burgundy’s inconsistency, high price and complex labelling has never managed. 

To spout derision for the region on one hand and then to make your living off it on another, though, is hypocrisy. 

It reminds me of when I last visited Hawkes Bay, where a section of the local wine industry love to slate Central pinot. The first wine I tried at the first cellar door I visited was a Central Otago pinot noir. Nobody likes it, but they all want one. 

There will always be bulk wine available to outside-the-region producers and we would have to be very arrogant to think that it shouldn’t happen. 

But it does send a warning that if you lose control of the product, you lose control of the message. 

Paul Tudgay is the Queens­town Resort College business hospitality manager and a wine appreciation lecturer