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Demystifying the world of wine

Do you fancy drinking New Zealand wine for 50p ($0.65, 0.57 euros) a bottle?

Tesco Wairau cove offer

I spotted a newspaper advertisement by U.K. grocer Tesco this weekend for various barbecue related food and drink items. The item that caught my eye was a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc produced by Wairau Cove on offer for £5.50 ($7.2) a bottle.

Given excise duty is £2.08 and VAT (Value Added Tax) is applied at 20% (£1.1) this means that the price exluding taxes would be £2.32. This figure needs to cover transportation from Marlborough in New Zealand (the country's largest wine growing region), Tesco's margin, production cost for the wine, packaging and so on. Wairau Cove is bulk shipped and then bottled in Europe to save on these transport costs - bulk wine, at this price no artisanal touch. Unless this is a loss leader for Tesco, the wine makers must be getting pennies (30-50p) I would reckon). Crazy!

At this price, they still seem to be keeping quality at a reasonable level . I see that drinkers on Vivino.com are rating the 2016 vintage at 3.9 stars out of 5 though. but I remain sceptical as many of these wines have little character, almost boring NZ wines compared with much better comparators from the likes of France and Italy. Many of these wines are sold by pubs and restaurants at ridiculous mark-ups and the punters just keep buying them for the safe Sauvignon Blanc experience.

Vivino Wairau cove sauvignon blanc 2016

Wairau Cove is not a recognised winery and you wouldn't find it on a map in New Zealand. Wairau Valley is a subregion of Marlborough, but Wairau Cove doesn't exist. Not officially anyway!

Bulk wine like this bottle is produced from grapes sold off by wineries and co-operatives who for whatever reason don't want to produce it themselves including lack of quality, excessive quantities produced by a larger than expected harvest or too much stock before an impending new harvest.

The Sauvignon Blanc in Wairau Cove most likely comes from producers like Pernod-Ricard's Brancott Estate winery, Sacred Hill and Babich. New Zealand Wine said of the 2016 vintage, "“This year’s vintage of 436,000 tonnes of grapes will be a welcome boost for markets, growers and wineries”. The 2016 harvest is up 34% on the small 2015 crop, but is still below the record breaking 2014 vintage.". So a bumper crop for New Zealand wine and especially Marlborough in 2016 which means plenty of supply in 2017. 

Ask yourself the question, do you want to drink bulk wine, with no character produced for as little as 50p a bottle and presumably packed with sulfites and other nasties? A bargain it may be, but certainly not for the discerning drinker. Not for me thanks!