Seek wisdom of wine merchant
Some of you may remember the column Wood on Wine from a number of Waikato publications. Originally written by my late father, Hugh Wood, the baton was then passed to my mother Bev, and finally to me.
Much as I amsure many of you would love to be able to break out the Penfolds Grange or the Dom Perignon for any occasion, unfortunately the overwhelming majority of us aren’t multimillionaires, which means we must all exercise a little fiscal discretion when it comes to choosing our favourite tipple.
I well remember my late father, when he owned a wine shop in Hamilton some 25 years ago, declaring he could never in good conscience sell a bottle of Church Road for under $20, as the wine was ‘‘just too bloody good’’.
Luckily for the wine buyer these days (but much to the disappointment of the retailers I would imagine), Church Road is now regularly advertised at under $15 a bottle, which to me makes it one of the great wine buys in the country. Church Road Chardonnay does exactly as it promises to do, dishing up great fat dollops of proper chardonnay flavours, without scrimping on the oak. While unoaked (or ‘lightly oaked’) chardonnay has its place – for example sitting outside at the picnic table watching someone else burn the sausages – I must admit I much prefer the old-fashioned big fat oaky beasts, and Church Road is living proof that you don’t have to spend $30+ to achieve that style. The Merlot/Cabernet (or Cabernet/Merlot, depending on the vintage) is equally good value. A very good, honest, reliable red, with a bit more finesse than some others on the market.
Another long-established NZ label, Stoneleigh, also offers exceptional quality and value. Their ‘‘standard’’ range is anything but standard – and offers outstanding value. Their next tier up, Stoneleigh Wild Valley 2015 Pinot Noir and Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Chardonnay 2015 are both remarkable expressions of their varieties. Beautiful, succulent, balanced and robust, at under $20 a bottle they are well worth seeking out. Speaking of wine shops, while the supermarket is convenient, please don’t forget your humble local wine merchant or bottle store. Most of them will have more specialised knowledge than your average supermarket staffer, and they are also more likely to have something a little bit different. They do try to be competitive on price with the big guns, although the buying power of your average supermarket chain is such that they aren’t able to match them dollar for dollar.
While it is a complete myth that ‘supermarket wine’ is inferior (it’s the same stuff, folks), there is something nice about popping in for a chat with your local wine guy or wine girl, picking their brains, and wandering out with something you may not have considered trying previously.
- Simon Wood
Writer Simon Wood.