Paid for wine reviews – the debate continues

I had a call from Jim Mora of Radio New Zealand on Wednesday, asking me if I’d be prepared to go on The Panel to comment on a piece in yesterday’s Herald, which you can read here

Firstly – I’m not on anyone’s side. I review wine but only if I am drinking it for enjoyment. It might have been sent to me, but chances are I bought it with my own hard-earned cash. I don’t write for any print publications and after many years, I am no longer a regular on National Radio. But I do have an Instagram account (lol).

The topic concerns paid wine reviews – something that is causing much consternation among a number of wine writers, (some of whom have formed a group called Wine Writers of New Zealand complete with a Code of Ethics Their issue is that those who charge to review a wine are naturally duty-bound to write nice things about it which prevents it from being independent and therefore misleads the public.

I disagree.

These wine reviewers are providing a service of wine evaluation, primarily for the knowledge of the producer. The producer pays a fee for this service (as you would for any other, think dentist, doctor etc). What do they get for their money? A written evaluation of their wine and a star rating from an experienced and respected wine consultant. If the wine rates three stars or above, the reviewer publishes their comments on their blog or website and the chances are the producer will use the review in their marketing. If under three stars, the reviewer contacts the producer to let them know why the wine did not do well. Producers are paying for an assessment of their wine, not for column centimetres.

Producers choose who (or what) they send their wine to, presumably based on the respect they have for the reviewer (or the event). It is up to these reviewers/wine writers/wine competitions to develop and maintain their reputations in a way that reinforces their integrity. It’d be a pretty short term strategy if they didn’t.

For consumers, it is their decision who they choose to heed advice from. Faced with a wall of wine, many are looking for a cue as to what to buy. The gold medal, glinting enticingly, is often the deciding factor, indicating that the wine has been through the robust judging of a wine competition process. Sure, knowing the brand and resonating with the brand values is brilliant and is the holy grail of all us wine marketers, but an independent endorsement can be even better. That’s when anything stuck on a bottle can make the difference between it being chosen or not (the ‘any port in a storm’ philosophy). How much information purchasers want to dig into about the reviewer giving four stars or the wine competition that gave a gold medal is up to them.

At this point I must air a particular concern of mine. The somewhat covert use of gold medal stickers by wine producers. I say covert, because in an alarming number of situations, the ‘gold medal’ is not a gold medal at all. I have seen examples that on closer inspection say ‘100% Sustainable’, ‘Winery of the Year’ and ‘Family owned and operated’. Jolly good – but why use a GOLD, round sticker? Well, I think we know the answer there. And the busy person flying round the supermarket desperate to get out the other end doesn’t have time for that close up inspection. So what do they end up with? A bottle of wine that they thought had been awarded a gold medal, but in fact is anything but. My suggestion, is that if a wine producer has a brilliant piece of information they’d like to share with people, actually put it in the copy of your label. Or if you have to stick something on, don’t use the colour gold. It’s misleading. White stands out just as well.
I raised this with Sue Chetwin at Consumer some years ago and she agreed it was something they should probably look into, although nothing has happened as yet.

Anyway – back to the subject in hand.

So what constitutes ‘independent’? To me, it is someone external to the company who can therefore give an objective review of the wine. Does payment remove the ability to be objective? No. Does seeing the label remove the ability to be objective? Highly likely.

If the label says ‘Felton Road Pinot Noir’ I’d suggest it’d be hard to give it a bad review – one’s preconception dictates it’s going to be pretty good. But (as an example) is it as good as the previous vintage? Is it typical of the style that the brand has fostered? There’s more to reviewing wine than different degrees of good or bad.

The other thing that tasting the wines blind (i.e. without knowing what they are) ensures, is that you don’t know if it happened to be made by your best mate. That helps. As does not knowing the retail price or the weight of the bottle, all of which can influence the reviewer’s perception, even subliminally.

This is where the show system has a clear advantage. Wines poured behind the scenes then delivered to the judges so they have no idea of the producer. There are five people in a judging panel – three judges and two associates (judges with L plates). At the end of a class, all wines judged to be of gold medal standard are brought back for another assessment (still blind) to ensure they are truly are worthy of that commendation. Rigorous and robust.

Here’s another thing. Is receiving payment any different to receiving an all-expenses paid trip? Dinner? Concert tickets? Gifts? No, it isn’t (although I have yet to find a dentist who’ll provide their service in exchange for dinner or a case of wine). There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as the saying goes and it would be a little naïve to think otherwise. As someone who was once responsible for purchasing 750,000 cases of wine for the UK market some 20 years ago, I can certainly testify to the junkets on offer. Everything from small gifts to overseas trips. I had a rule – I accepted nothing from any company I wasn’t already doing business with (and my buying trips were 100% funded by my company). Anyway – that’s a bit different I guess, but there are similarities.

And finally – I noted two comments over this debate that suggested wine reviewers might indeed give a positive review just to get their hands on a free bottle. This is not only insulting (and laughable) but also shows a complete lack of understanding. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, and most wine writers, paid or otherwise, are up to their armpits in wannabe princes. This thinking might be excusable from someone outside the wine industry, but for the publisher of a wine magazine, I’d suggest it highlights their journalism background rather than their wine one.

I could go on at length, but at the end of the day it’s about expectation, clarification and integrity.

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Marlborough Wine Show 2015 – gold medal tasting notes

The judges did all the hard work and I just tasted all the gold medal-winning wines! For other information please see

Lower alcohol

Clark Estate Marlborough Block 8 Riesling 2015
Very pale, almost water white. Gorgeous pronounced nose – fresh, floral but with tangerine hints and mouth-watering appeal. This wine is exceptionally fruity with a bright, sheberty acidity. Light bodied yet plenty of flavour – a real gem at just 8% alcohol.


Stoneleigh Marlborough Latitude Chardonnay 2014
Toasty oak, hazelnuts, caramelised peach on the nose lead to a rich and weighty palate with those nutty, toasty characters and a balancing acidity. A well-balanced, ripe style of Chardonnay that will delight lovers of the style.

Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Chardonnay 2014
Lighter nose with a mineral hint woven through the citrusy aromas. A supple, mouth-filling style with a richness that builds. Creamy, lovely lightish use of oak and succulent balanced by ripe fruit and a gentle acidity.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2014
Cashew nut characters match a fresh, citrus zest aroma. Lifted and attractive, the nose is followed by an elegantly structured palate with toasty hints, underlying lemon zest and a touch of apricot. Lovely wine.

Pinot Gris

Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2015
Minerally, floral nose with some fresh pear. Palate is off dry, but well-balanced with a gentle acidity. Supple and ripe, quite juicy and smooth this is an appealing style of wine.


Johanneshof Cellars Gewurztraminer 2014
Pronounced, lifted nose, so perfumed! Jasmine, citrus flower, lychee aromas. Weighty, rich palate, mouth-coating. Sweet and concentrated with exceptionally long-lasting flavours – an amazing wine.

Sparkling wines

Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Prestige Cuvee 2012
Lovely fresh, clean nose – hints of mealiness and meringues. Off dry impression at first but the polished acidity creates wonderful balance. Fruit-driven, forward style with some richness and good length.

Nautilus Cuvee Marlborough N.V. Brut Methode Traditionnelle
Toasty, mealy with an attractive richness on the nose. A lovely wine – elegant and seamless, dry but not too dry – lovely fruit undertones – serious style yet deliciously enjoyable.

Sauvignon Blanc

Kim Crawford Spitfire Small Parcels Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Searing herbaceous characters with lots of chopped capsicum, freshly-mown grass and citrus on the nose. Dry yet weighty, a textural, rich wine that offers a big and powerful expression of Sauvignon Blanc. Highly memorable!

Starborough Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Tropical, lifted aromas with fresh herbs. Palate has layers of concentrated flavours and offers a lovely weight and suppleness. Fresh, polished and delicious.

Vidal Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Fresh, citrus aromas with a touch of sliced raw fennel. Dry yet fruit-driven with a firm structure of acidity that balances the wine’s palate. Lots of flavours that linger indefinitely.

Lawson’s Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Herbaceous, passionfruit and citrus – it’s all here. Lemon barley cordial, lovely fresh, zingy acidity and nice texture. Lemon hints on the finish – deliciously moreish and perfect with shellfish.

Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Clean and polished, lime zest, capsicum, herbs and mown grass on the nose, all of which are echoed on the palate. Ripe and juicy with a fresh acidity and good length of flavour.

Summerhouse Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Wet stone, mineral characters, lime and lemon zest, freshly chopped fennel and herbs. Hints at being off-dry due to the fruity nature, but the acidity balances it out to form a classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Almost a floral touch on the aroma of this wine plus mineral tones and passionfruit. Succulent and juicy, well-flavoured but in balance.

Rapaura Springs Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Nettles, elderflower, passionfruit, lime – pronounced aromas! A big expression of Sauvignon Blanc, concentrated with intense flavours of tropical fruits. Ripe, succulent and offers great length of flavour.

Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Passionfruit, fresh herbs, elderflower on the nose. Fruit up front, but acidity sweeps through to make this a very fresh and uplifting wine. Plenty of flavours – quite intense and with good length.

Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Apples, lemon zest, fresh basil aromas. Tangy acidity makes for a great food wine – backed up by a fruitiness and slight mineral character on the finish.

Eradus Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Lime cordial, fresh, mouth-watering aromas. Full-flavoured, intense with good concentration and brilliant citrusy acidity. Lovely mineral tanginess too. Delightful wine.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Graham Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Real mineral aspect to this wine – almost a damp earthiness. Also fresh limes and a leafy, nettley component. Dry and linear with a firm acidity and truly tangy, mouth-watering fruit.

Selaks Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Clean, herbaceous style with underlying passionfruit. Polished and concentrated with good length and plenty of the anticipated flavours of top Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Gorgeous nose of lime and lemon zest and a chalky minerality. Dry yet fruit-driven, this wine offers an array of intense flavours.

Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘B’ Marlborough 2015
Mouth-watering nose of ripe tropical fruit with grassy characters. Dry, fruity and well-made with a zesty freshness and firm acidity.

Ara Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Ripe and enticing nose of lemon barley, firm acidity gives a freshness, making for a lively yet balanced wine. Intense gooseberry!

Whalebone Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Tangy, dry, with underlying ripe fruit and a gooseberry characters. Classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with good punch!

Brancott Estate Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Piercingly fresh nose – clean, mouth-watering, lime juice. Lemon cordial, succulent and juicy with good length.


Saint Clair Pinot Gris Rose 2015
Attractive pale pink. Pronounced nose – fruit-driven, lollies, candyfloss. Sweeter style but lovely acidity provides balance as does the bucketful of ripe, juicy fruit. Lovely mouth-filling wine.


Mount Riley Riesling 2015
Fresh citrusy nose, sweet and sherberty. A dry wine, refreshing and crisp with floral characters as well as a zesty vibrancy. Lovely intensity.

Ribbonwood Riesling 2015
Wonderful mineral tones lead the nose, together with pronounced citrus fruits, nectarine and mandarin. Palate is off-dry, weighty and long – lovely mouth-feel and concentration.

Hunter’s Riesling 2012
Intense lime aromas, Roses lime Cordial. Dry wine but with plenty of concentrated flavours – ripe too so a slightly sweet impression. Lovely citrus acidity gives a good structure. Delicious.

The Doctors’ Riesling 2015
Nectarine and orange zest aromas leap out of the glass. The palate has sweet juicy fruit but is beautifully balanced by the fresh, citrusy acidity. Flavours last and last – totally delicious and very moreish.

Sweet wines

John Forrest Collection Wairau Valley Late Harvest Riesling 2012
Honeyed and a touch of kerosene, also a melted butter richness. Sweet, weighty, clings inside your mouth, silky smooth, concentrated peach and apricot flavours that last forever. Not cloying though – gentle acidity sweeps the palate clean. Stunning wine.

Ara Select Block Limited Release Block I53 Cut Cane Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Golden yellow, powerful nose of orange zest and an almost resinous, herbal character. Deeply sweet, rich and oily, weighty texture. Buttery richness, smooth, unctuous, intense and a lovely crisp acidity on the finish.

Sileni Pourriture Noble 2014
Golden yellow colour, then a nose that embraces honey, apricot, orange and asparagus. Incredibly sweet and rich – almost syrupy – intense, concentrated – a real statement wine! Almost like an orange and herb liqueur!

Pinot Noir

Ara Resolute Single Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Garnet red in colour. Nose has attractive savoury, quite gamey characters with underlying dark-skinned fruits. Palate is powerful – again savoury flavours dominate – big tannins on this young wine that will certainly reward cellaring. Serious stuff!

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Master Block Southern Valley Pinot Noir 2012
Deep, dark red with a hint of purple. Nose is blueberries, a few herbs, leather, char and a touch of dark, dried fruits. Fine ‘pencil shavings’ oak on the palate – sweet and concentrated, a powerful wine yet elegant too – big expression of Marlborough Pinot. Very good.

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012
Dark reddish pink colour. Lifted nose of spicy concentrated raspberries, toasty oak and underlying savoury characters. Sweet fruit up front on the palate, then the power sweeps though – wow! Big, brambley flavours, rich and warm. Mouth-coating tannins – still a baby, but so good!

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013
Garnet red in the glass, then a nose with aromas of dark berries, some spice and warm toastiness. On the palate this wine has lovely concentration and the flavours last for ages. So balanced and elegant yet is able to make a statement. Integrated tannins, smooth and textural.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
Medium intensity garnet red. Nose has spicy, toasty oak, some red and black fruits and a sprinkling of dried herbs. Palate offers sweet, ripe fruit to begin with, then builds with some more intense raspberry and a touch of plum. Good tannins and a nice balance of acidity.

Yealands Winemakers Reserve Pinot Noir 2014
Dark pinky red, the nose then offers raspberry and chocolate – like the Black Forrest chocolate bars! Sweet, ripe fruit upfront, mouth-filling and with lovely almost chewy texture. Savoury hint on the finish.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block Twin Hills Omaka Valley Pinot Noir 2014
Brightly coloured, purpley red. Light nose, slightly more subtle with ripe raspberry fruit characters. The palate is medium-bodied and has plenty of ripe red berry fruits. Soft and elegant.

The King’s Wrath Pinot Noir 2014
Medium intensity, pinky red colour. The nose is quite savoury and smoky with charred oak characters. Sweet on the front of the palate, this is an easy drinking style that is mouth-filling and supple.

Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘T’ Pinot Noir 2014
Medium intensity colour with garnet hues. The nose is perfumed and floral at first before giving way to lovely raspberry and cherry tones. Sweet and ripe, a perceived soft style but then balanced with lovely chocolatey tannins which give structure and mouth-fell.

Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2014
Garnet with a touch of purple in the glass. The aromas embrace ripe berry fruit and spicy, almost a nutmeg character from the French oak. Sweet, ripe berry fruit with a touch of plum – lovely and concentrated. Tannins come through on the finish to give a mouth-coating texture and great length of flavour.

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A rough idea of the meaning of certain words often used when talking or reading about New Zealand wines (phew!)

Here’s a simple, ‘at a glance’, rough idea to the meaning of words often used in context with New Zealand wine.

  • Aroma– The smell of a wine, also referred to as the “nose” or “bouquet” of the wine.
  • Balance– How the acid, fruit flavours, sweetness, tannins and alcohol are in relation to each other. They should all work in together to give a wine that is ‘balanced’ (sweetness and acidity is important in sweeter style white wines, and tannin and fruit in red wines).
  • Barrique – The French word for a 224 litre oak barrel
  • Battonage – the French term for stirring a wine while on its lees (see ‘Lees’ below) following fermentation.
  • Biodynamic– ‘Biodynamic’ is a method of organic grape-growing (or farming) originally developed by Rudolf Steiner that employs what is described as “a holistic understanding of agricultural processes”. It treats soil fertility and plant growth as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives. It also references phase of the moon.
  • Body – The impression of weight or fullness on the palate – how a wine feels in the mouth and how powerful the flavours and alcohol or tannins are. The bigger the impression, the more likely a wine is to be referred to as ‘full-bodied’ such as an Australian Shiraz for example, as opposed to a ‘light-bodied’ wine which may be something like a Pinot Grigio from Italy.
  • Botrytis – A special type of fungus that attacks grapes if the conditions are right and these are then used to make very sweet wines. The fungus pierces the skin of the grape allowing the water content to evaporate and the sugars to concentrate. There is too much sugar for the yeast to convert so the remaining ‘residual sugar’ is very high. In New Zealand, the best grape varieties for this type of sweet wine are Riesling and Semillon. Botrytis is only desired when making these wines and can be a real problem in other grape varieties, particularly in damp and humid conditions.
  • Brix– A measurement of the sugar content in grapes. The level of brix indicates the degree of the grapes’ ripeness (sugar level) which helps to determine when to pick. It also therefore indicates the potential alcohol content of the finished wine.
  • Clone– Vines originating from a single, individual plant chosen for its specific attributes i.e. clonal selection. Clones can be chosen for diseases resistance, vigour, flavour and various other elements.
  • Corked– A wine that has been spoiled by the cork used to seal the bottle. Caused by a chemical called trichloroanisole, or TCA, which is found in the bark of the cork oak tree and is virtually impossible to eradicate.
  • Dry – A wine that has been fermented until all (or almost all) of the available sugars in the grape have been converted to alcohol. Dry wines are usually those that are under 5 grams per litre of ‘residual’ sugar (i.e. sugar left once fermentation has been stopped).
  • Fermentation– The process of yeast converting the available sugar (from the ripeness of the grapes) into alcohol with the by-product of carbon dioxide.
  • Filtration – The process of straining out solid particles in wine with various types of filters. Not always carried out depending on the desired wine style.
  • Fining – Fining is carried out to improve the clarity of a wine. It is traditionally done using egg white, bentonite (a very fine, absorbent clay) or isinglass (swim bladder of sturgeon).
  • Late Harvest– Wine made from grapes picked later than normal and therefore at higher sugar levels. The yeast cannot convert all the sugar to alcohol as there is too much, so the resulting wines are sweet.
  • Lees – this is the spent yeast cells that fall to the bottom of the tank during fermentation. Some wines are kept ‘on lees’ for a while to contribute to texture, weight and therefore the body of the wine before being racked off them. Chardonnay can sometimes be a good example of this.
  • Length– The amount of time the flavour of a wine lasts in your mouth, ine the wine has been swallowed.  Top quality wines are often talked about as ‘having great length’.
  • Mouth-feel – Describes the texture or physical sensation of the wine in the mouth such as silky or chewy (for big tannic wines perhaps), oily, weighty etc.
  • Oenology– The science and study of winemaking.
  • Oxidised– Wine that has been spoilt through exposure to oxygen over a prolonged period. Can become musty or ‘Sherry-like’ and often tinged brown.
  • Palate – the wine once it’s in the mouth. How it tastes and feels.
  • Phenolics/Phenols – Chemical compounds derived from skins, seeds, and stems.  Phenols include tannin, pigments and flavour compounds with the sensation of dryness or sometimes coarseness on the finish of a wine.
  • Racking – moving a wine off its lees into another vessel e.g. racking from tank to barrel.
  • Reserve – a term widely used to suggest a wine of more superior quality, however there is no regulation over its use so it pays to know the producer and how they apply it to their particular wines.
  • Single vineyard – a wine made from grapes grown only on one particular vineyard.
  • Structure – The backbone of the wine and balance of elements such as acid, tannin, alcohol, and body as it relates to a wine’s texture and mouthfeel.  A white wine with low acidity might be referred to as ‘lacking in structure’ while a tannic red wine may be thought of as with a ‘firm structure’.
  • Tannins– Compounds that contribute to a red wine’s structure, mouth-feel, and astringency often resulting in a dry sensation in the mouth and ‘furry teeth’.  Tannin is a natural compound derived from grape skins, seeds and stems; the more contact the juice has with these elements, the more tannic the wine will be.  Tannin is often considered the “backbone” of a wine and might make a young wine less approachable, it is vital in the aging process.
  • Terroir – A French term often adopted in other winemaking countries, referring to the environment in which a given grape variety grows.  It encompasses the soil, climate, vineyard aspect and viticultural practices. Great wine is said to reflect its ‘terroir’ or sense of place.
  • Triage – the process of sorting through freshly-picked grapes usually using a special ‘triage table’. The grapes are tipped out of bins on to the conveyor belt and hand-sorted.
  • Varietal – a specific grape variety.
  • Vintage – the year the grapes were picked to make a particular wine
  • Yeast– Microorganisms that produce the enzymes that convert sugar to alcohol.  Yeast is necessary for the fermentation of grape juice into wine. It can either be cultured (use of a known strain for its particular attributes) or ‘wild/indigenous’ which means natural yeast from the vineyard and winery.


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Please don’t say anything unless it’s worth saying!

This is a spot of advice (unrequested so feel free to ignore) for all wine companies (and to any other company) that pumps out endless, dull ‘media releases’.

My reason for writing this as follows: I receive quite a number of media releases from various wine companies over the period of a week. Usually they are conveying news of an award, accolade or milestone – fair enough. The problem comes when I get several a week from the same company…it’s like the boy who cried wolf!

In fact, one particular company sends out so many that I now delete them without opening them. That must be the worst thing that can happen…what if they have something IMPORTANT to say? I’ll miss it because I have received so much drivel that I will just expect the next one to be equally as drivelous (new word).

The fact a new wine is released is great – but is it newsworthy? For some wines, yes – certainly (think Grange etc) but not all of them. In addition – if the release only contains winemaker quotes as opposed to (or as well as) independent quotes – it just reads as self promotion rather than anything that’s ‘news’.

Media releases should contain newsworthy stuff – interesting content that has people excited and talking. A quote from Hubspot’s blog by Hannah Fleishman says it all, “Reporters often hold the key to national coverage, but they get flooded daily with various announcements and have to cater to their audience first and foremost, not your business’ best interests.”

And here’s another plea. Please include the title of the media release in the subject line – then recipients know if it is something they should open. ‘New from…’ and ‘Please find attached a media release from …’ with no clue as to what it’s about is not very helpful. Thanks!

Here’s a link to Hannah’s blog and some great advice for writing top-notch media releases in today’s mega-fast world

Thanks for indulging me!

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20 big, hairy questions to define your wine brand (in no particular order)

Yes, you should be able to answer them all. If you can’t please set yourself some homework.

1. Describe what your company does. What is your core business? Keep it to the point!

2. Explain your wine brand in two sentences (think elevator speech and leave out ‘quality’ as it’s a given).

3. What is your brand’s tagline? (I think ‘made in the vineyard’ is taken)

4. What are the brand’s core values?

5. Does your imagery, label and logo reflect these core values?

6. What gap in the market does your wine brand fill?

7. Do you have a business vision and goals? How does your brand dovetail that vision and contribute to achieving those goals?

8. What is your brand’s competitive point of difference (and I mean ‘difference’ – don’t say ‘quality’ – it’s a given. ‘Boutique family-owned’ isn’t exactly different either).

9. Describe your target customer(s). What do they do, what car do they drive, how do they spend their leisure time?

10. Why should your brand appeal to this group of people?

11. Why should someone purchase your wine over someone else’s (think elevator speech – you have a minute to answer this, not a week)

12. How are you communicating this?

13. Imagine your wine brand were a person, describe their personality. Would this personality appeal to your target customers?

14. Who are your competitor wine producers and which brands? Why do you see them as competition? What can you learn from them?

15. What do you want people to think when they see your wine?

16. What do you want your company to be known for in the wine industry?

17. Is your website up to date? All the time? (This is the number one bug-bear of wine writers and smacks of ‘I can’t be bothered’ which is not a good vibe…) Does it accurately reflect your brand and its values?

18. How does your brand engage people?

19. Does your sales team e.g. your distributor and all other stake-holders perceive your brand in the same way you do?

20. Describe your marketing communications plan and include social media (one post a day on Facebook does not a marketing communications plan make).

How did you get on? Know the what, why, where, who and how of your wine brand? Plenty more questions available!

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Christmas gift crisis? Over it?

Hopefully if you are reading this, it means you have Christmas locked down – presents sorted, decorations up, food planned and camp site booked. Congratulations! For those of us still trying to get it together, it becomes more stressful with every day that passes. Here are some last minute ideas that offer great value and require minimum ‘shopping’…

A magazine subscription – check out, or and treat someone to the gift that lasts all year. As well as great local publications, consider National Geographic, Time Magazine or other global titles. Then you can just nip out to get the current issue, wrap it up and pop it under the tree with a card saying their gift is a 12-month subscription.

An SOS pack. Someone you know not organised in the event of an emergency? Why not pay a visit to Bunnings or Mitre Ten and grab a torch, batteries, first aid kit and the likes, topped off by a few tins from the supermarket (and a tin opener!).

Food is another option. While many of us hate the supermarket at the best of times, Christmas is even worse. However, with a dose of optimism, determination and patience, you’d be surprised at what gifts you can tick off the list.

How about a few goodies that your friend or family member wouldn’t usually treat themselves to? Chutneys and pickles, good quality pasta and sauce, special olive oil, mustards etc, or if you know they love Asian foods, make up a hamper with noodles and good soy sauce, a few ‘Home Gourmet’ sachets, some wasabi or even a DIY sushi kit or how about Indian (don’t forget the spices – cumin, coriander seeds, garam masala etc) and Italian is easy as well – pasta, pesto, Italian olive oil, maybe sun-dried tomatoes, grissini bread sticks and more (just make sure the pasta you choose really is made in Italy!)

Another idea easily available from the supermarket is a pamper pack. Hand cream, body lotion, bubble bath, magazines, puzzle book, pen, chocolate, some nice savoury nibbles and a bottle of wine for example. You can buy a packet of tissue paper and a gift bag while you are there – scrumple up the tissue and place some in the bottom of the bag, then add a few of the items, a bit more scrumpled tissue etc etc and there you go – even wrapped!

Got an abundance of lemons? Not always practical for those still on the go, but making lemon curd or offering a jar of homemade preserved lemons is a great gift. Heere’s Jo Seager’s lemon curd recipe and Ruth Pretty’s one for preserved lemons is here You can buy some snazzy fabric either for the fabric shop or a charity shop – even a cool clothing item – and cut it into rounds for the tops of the jars. Hand-made tags are a nice touch too. This also applies if you have an abundance of any fruit or veg – zucchini pickle is a good one, raspberry jam, even buy a bag of pickling onions and pickle them yourself!

Thinking of the garden, if you have green or greenish fingers, you might have some seedlings doing well. A few of these into a pot makes a nice gift. I have also taken cuttings of things like Vietnamese mint with great success. Again, these are gifts that just keep on going! Or…jump online to Kings Seeds or Italian Seeds Pronto and order some packets for your gardening buddies. So inexpensive and really thoughtful. Could even accompany them with the latest edition of NZ Gardener.

What about giving an experience? You could book a special trip as a surprise – or give a voucher for one. For those living in Marlborough, what about a trip into the Sounds with the Cougar Line? Visit for details – even a trip to Bay of Many Coves for lunch is only $89 all inclusive! Think what your local area has to offer – bound to be something!

If you are still snookered, baffled, confused or just fed up with the whole commercialisation – head to the World Vision website and their Smiles ‘gifts that saves lives’. So much to choose from and every one of them benefitting children and families who really need help. Oh and the feel good factor is priceless.





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‘Giesen, Johanneshof and Villa Maria dominate 2013 Marlborough Wine Show awards’.

Family companies dominated the awards at the 2013 Marlborough Wine Show celebration dinner held in Blenheim on Saturday night with Giesen, Johanneshof Cellars and Villa Maria winning nine of the 14 awards presented.

In addition to 12 class trophies, there were two new awards – The Marlborough Wine Show Award for Vineyard Excellence which was presented jointly to Ara Wines and Villa Maria for their Seddon Vineyard and the Marlborough Museum Legacy Award which was presented to Johanneshof Cellars for their Gewurztraminer, vintages 2006, 2010 and 2012.

Johanneshof joint winemakers, Warwick Foley and Edel Everling said, “The Johanneshof team is elated to receive not only the Trophy for Champion Gewurztraminer but also the inaugural Marlborough Museum Legacy Award. In the 24 years since Johanneshof was established, we have always strived to produce wines of great harmony that not only evolve and unravel over time, but ultimately have the strength to be enjoyed for many years.” Warwick concludes, “We are thrilled to be recognised for producing such wines.”

Marcel Giesen, Director and Chief Winemaker of Giesen Wines said, “We are delighted with the three trophies for ‘The Fuder’ wines. “ He explains, “The idea was to showcase single vineyard sites in Marlborough and use 1,000 litre German oak barrels (‘Fuders’) to prove that a number of styles are possible with outstanding Marlborough fruit – both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.”

Villa Maria Senior Marlborough Winemaker Jeremy McKenzie commented on the significance of a Riesling winning the top spot: “It’s often to the despair of winemakers that Riesling seems to be the poor cousin of Sauvignon Blanc; it’s a great varietal that I’d love to see more people enjoying. We’re absolutely stoked with the four trophies from the competition,” he said.

The Marlborough Wine Show was established in 2011 to showcase the sub-regions and style diversity of wines from the province.

The complete list of trophies and awards is as follows:


Winemakers’ Association of Marlborough trophy for Champion Sparkling Wine

Hawkesbridge Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle 2009


WineWorks trophy for Champion Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Wither Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013


WineWorks trophy for Champion Sauvignon Blanc 2012

The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection: Matthews Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2012


WineWorks trophy for Champion Sauvignon Blanc Emerging Style

The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection: Matthews Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2012


Ormond Nurseries Ltd trophy for Champion Chardonnay 2013 – 2012

Mount Riley 17 Valley Chardonnay 2012


Ormond Nurseries Ltd trophy for Champion Chardonnay 2011

The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection: Clayvin Chardonnay 2011


TNL Freighting trophy for Champion Pinot Gris

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Vineyard Pinot Gris 2013


New Zealand King Salmon trophy for Champion Riesling 2013 – 2012

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Dry Riesling 2013


New Zealand King Salmon trophy for Champion Riesling 2011 and Older

Spring Creek Estate Marlborough Riesling 2011


Mantissa Corporation trophy for Champion Gewurztraminer

Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2012


The Honey Company Limited trophy for Champion Sweet Wine

Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2012


Classic Oak Products trophy for Champion Pinot Noir 2013 – 2012

Lawson’s Dry Hills The Pioneer Pinot Noir 2012


O-I New Zealand Champion Wine of the Show

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Dry Riesling 2013


The Marlborough Museum Legacy Award

Johanneshof Cellars vintages 2006, 2010, 2012


The Marlborough Wine Show Award for Vineyard Excellence

Jointly awarded to Ara Wines and Villa Maris for their Seddon Vineyard.


MWS 2012

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