Every year, ‘Consumer NZ’ magazine conducts a wine tasting which gives advice as to what may be good drinking over the summer months. This year, the theme of ‘Summer Drinking’ was extended in scope with a range of low-alcohol Sauvignon Blancs and low-alcohol Pinot Gris, Riesling wines, Rosé and Sparklings, these categories experiencing phenomenal growth in the market place over the past few years. The Consumer NZ magazine, Issue 564, December 2015 has the report of the tasting.
The tasting and testing is conducted very much in accordance with that for other consumables, appliances, technology and the like with the wines assessed ‘blind’ (identity unknown) by a panel with degrees of experience and expertise in understanding wine. Normally the panel is led by Larry McKenna, one of this country’s most respected winemakers and wine judges. As Larry was unable to participate this year, the panel was headed by his assistant winemaker Huw Kinch, who is involved in judging currently. The rest of the panel consisted of regulars Sue Davies and Laura Saba, wine professionals who have also judged, Gary Bowering, an enthusiastic wine lover, and Elissa Jordan, a wine blogger, who also happens to be a project manager at Consumer NZ.
One 5-Star Wine
Usually, the panel finds several 5-star wines, equivalent to a gold medal, in what they taste, but this year, there was only one 5-star wine, this being the Allan Scott Marlborough Riesling 2014. However, there were nine wines rated 4-star, equivalent to a silver medal, these wines showing some qualities of excellence.
Each of the categories judged produced interesting findings. The Low-Alcohol wines were assessed without concession to them being lower in alcohol, so good examples had to show flavour and balance. However, lack of flavour was the main let-down, especially with the Pinot Gris, whereas, Sauvignon Blanc fared better, the best being the Wither Hills ‘Early Light’ 2014. The best category overall was Riesling, with four 4-star wines in addition to the 5-star Allan Scott. Riesling is a variety that is proven to be successful as a low-alcohol style. The best Rosé was the Esk Valley Hawke’s Bay Merlot Rosé 2015, this brand a consistent leader.
For me, the most surprising result was the poorer performance of the Sparkling wines with a healthy limit of $45.00 per bottle. Of 15 wines tasted, only three gained 4-star ratings, these being the Brancott Estate Brut Cuvee, Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvee Brut and the Deutz ‘Cuvee Marlborough’ Methode Traditionnelle. In the 15 tasted were brands that have consistently won top awards. Such discrepancies do happen, showing that wine assessment involves a degree of subjectivity and style preference by the judges involved
I can highly recommend subscribing to Consumer NZ. The magazine has much material and advice for the consuming public. In this issue, Consumer CEO Sue Chetwin lists 10 businesses or industries that “must try harder”. There is a comparison survey of pricing at supermarkets. Also, there is a report on online hotel pricing. Christmas puddings are reviewed. And there are tests on single serve blenders, sunglasses, barbecues, dashcams and more. For more information, visit www.consumer.org.nz