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Cuisine’s Top N.Z. Merlots and Cabernets

By August 21, 2012No Comments

The September 2012 issue of Cuisine magazine, number 154, is on the shelves, and it has the results of the magazine’s tastings of N.Z. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines.

Dealing with Merlot first, the tasting panel led by John Belsham tasted 84 wines in this category with the results of three wines rating 5-stars, five wines at 4 ½ stars and five wines at 4 stars. Combined with 21 wines at 3-stars, that left 50 with ‘No Award’. This low success rate is a reflection of the difficult, very late-ripening vintage experienced in 2010 for wines from the Bordeaux-varieties. Nevertheless, the Cuisine panel found some top wines from this vintage, as well as a smattering of 2009s (including the No. 1 ranked wine), seen as an outstanding year. My own tastings have found a good number of top Bordeaux-variety based wines from 2010 (the Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Merlot 2010 I rated 20.0/20), so it is wise not to write the year off as one without successes.

The top-rated Cuisine Merlot wine was Matua Valley ‘Single Vineyard – Matheson’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2009 which was a 5-star wine. Also on 5-stars were Villa Maria ‘Cellar Selection’ Hawke’s Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and Sacred Hill ‘Brokenstone’ Merlot 2010. It will be interesting to see how the wines from 2011 and 2012 also fare, are these were also challenging, cooler years.

A similar story is repeated with the results of the Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. Three wines were rated 5-star: the Church Road ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet/Merlot 2009 leading the the Sacred Hill ‘Helmsman’ 2010 and Villa Maria ‘Reserve’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010. There were three wines awarded 4 ½ stars, one wine at 4-stars and four wines rated at 3-stars, leaving 12 of the 23 wines tasted in this category with ‘No Award’.
A Shortage of Wine and a Shortage of Column Inches
As I noted in my blog on the previous Cuisine magazine results (click here to see), there seems to be a dwindling number of wines being entered into the Cuisine magazine tastings compared to what is available on the market place. This affects the perceived and actual comprehensiveness of the results and the articles published. Wine interested people will no doubt be acutely aware that there are many wines on the shelves that are worthy of buying that are not mentioned in Cuisine. Despite the soundness of the Cuisine ‘recommendation’ system, the effectiveness of the results is diminished.

It may be due to the nature of the categories of wine being reported on in this issue, but this issue of the magazine is very light in wine material. The wine section runs from page 143 to 153, out of a total 180 pages (including the covers). Of these pages, only 7 actually have wine focussed content, the rest being advertisements and images. And the subject matter is quite confined to Bordeaux variety wines. Kingsley Wood of First Glass Wines and Spirits noted this in his weekly email newsletter of 17 August, suggesting that the industry may not find (printed) magazines and wine publications useful for promoting wine much longer. (Click here to see the newsletter from the First Glass website.)

In a similar fashion, Michael Cooper’s ‘Listener’ writing was recently reduced from one whole page to two of three columns on the page. Maybe this is a sign of the times where newspapers and magazines for the general public are seeing wine-related articles as less interesting and less important. Yet food column-inches do not seem to be going through the same cut, and the two are in actuality totally integrated with each other. There is a corresponding increase in on-line expressions of wine material, in blogs and websites, though this growth is seen in all subjects. Will wine columns in newspapers and magazines die out?

It is important that the Cuisine editorial staff look at ways to remedy this situation where the wine section is decreasing in content and significance. They must get more wines entered into their tastings. And there should be more pages devoted to wine as a subject. Cuisine magazine has a proud history as being one of the most influential publications for wine drinkers in this country and beyond. Otherwise wine interested people will look elsewhere for information and recommendations, and with it, the audience for food and cuisine will go too. www.cuisine.co.nz

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