Look who’s steal­ing our rep­u­ta­tion

Exporter - - VIEWPOINT -

The good news about New Zealand’s wine in­dus­try is that it not only does, gen­er­ally speak­ing, a good job of mak­ing its prod­ucts, but of brand­ing and mar­ket­ing them as well. You could quib­ble about the make-up of the sec­tor when all of the largest, ex­cept Villa Maria, is for­eignowned and thus not strictly ‘New Zealand’ com­pa­nies. But over­all, buy­ing New Zealand wine, any­where in the world, is a pretty safe bet.

Which is why it was dis­may­ing last week to en­counter the other side of the equa­tion as I was sit­ting in a Mel­bourne bar look­ing for brands of New Zealand wines that I had ac­tu­ally heard of. Other than Cloudy Bay – a fa­mous LVMH brand with a pass­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with New Zealand – I’d heard of none of them.

In the in­ter­ests of re­search I or­dered a New Zealand sau­vi­gnon blanc that went by the name of ‘Up­side Down’ – which should per­haps have served as a warn­ing but thirst is a tough taskmas­ter at times and so it ap­peared in front of me. It was AU$10 for a glass that in hind­sight was at the high end of what it was ac­tu­ally worth – cer­tainly far more than it would have cost to make.

Now I will con­fess that I’ve had my fair share of sau­vi­gnon blanc in my life – New Zealand, French, Chilean, Ar­gen­tinian, and so forth. I’ve had sweet, dry, thin, full, oaked and even fizzy ver­sions of this va­ri­etal and I’m gen­er­ally quite good-na­tured about all of them (although I have to ad­mit fizzy has yet to re­ally grab me). And, I’ve lived in China, where you have to be adapt­able when it comes to wine.

‘Up­side Down’ sau­vi­gnon blanc, how­ever, had an as­trin­gency to it that Unilever would have been proud to put in its house­hold clean­ers port­fo­lio. In fact, I may have just in­vented a re­place­ment for the om­nipresent ‘lemon fresh’ as a brand vari­a­tion. “Now with the added power of sau­vi­gnon blanc from New Zealand” has quite a ring to it.

In­trigued with the as­trin­gency of this hith­erto un­known New Zealand brand I browsed the back la­bel hop­ing to find the wine­maker so that I could write them an abu­sive let­ter, but dis­cov­ered in­stead that this had been bot­tled in Australia. What a sur­prise!

Up­side Down’ sau­vi­gnon blanc, how­ever, had an as­trin­gency to it that Unilever would have been proud to put in its house­hold clean­ers port­fo­lio.”

And worse, an id­iot who pre­sum­ably had never sent any time out­side Dan­de­nong could only have writ­ten the brand ‘leg­end’ on the back la­bel. Here it is – and Ki­wis, take a deep breath:

“Up­side Down is a play on ‘Down Un­der’ and re­minds us that things are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent in New Zealand, sit­ting at the bot­tom of the world, where ev­ery­thing seems a lit­tle up­side down! New Zealand is known for hav­ing birds that can­not fly (The Kiwi), a na­tional love for bag pipe mu­sic, and a coun­try with a love for a nice, warm cuppa, yet is still renowned for pro­duc­ing world class cool cli­mate wines, like this Marl­bor­ough Sau­vi­gnon Blanc! (Iron­i­cally to be en­joyed on the long, hot sum­mer days that never quite make it that far south!)”

Bag­pipes? A warm cuppa? No long hot sum­mer days in the South Is­land?

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