Aussies angry over our wine success

MAKE THAT A SAV: Wine consultant Belinda Jackson, of Renwick, says Aussie complaints about NZ sauvignon blanc are sour grapes.
MAKE THAT A SAV: Wine consultant Belinda Jackson, of Renwick, says Aussie complaints about NZ sauvignon blanc are sour grapes.

An Aussie outburst labelling Marlborough sauvignon blanc "the McDonalds of wines" reflects frustration with the wine's appeal across the Tasman, Wine Marlborough says.

Wine Australia called for Aussie wine drinkers to "ditch that sav blanc from across the Tasman in favour of a top local drop" on Australia Day last month, and a Sydney Morning Herald article at the weekend featured several winemakers rallying against the popular variety.

James Agnew, who has a family-run vineyard in New South Wales' Hunter Valley and is the former chair of the NSW Wine Strategy, told the Herald New Zealand savs are "the McDonald's of wines".

"You can go all over the world but a Big Mac is still a Big Mac."

Hunter Valley winemaker Bruce Tyrrell said Australia's top selling white wine, an Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc, tasted of "passionfruit . . . body odour . . . cat's pee . . . lantana".

However, Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the Australian comments reflected pain and frustration as the industry faced tough times. There was no doubt Marlborough sauvignon was stealing a chunk of domestic consumption but the solution was innovation and meeting the market, not attack.

Renwick-based wine consultant Belinda Jackson, who runs two wine competitions and tastes several thousand wines a year, said NZ's Marlborough made a tremendous range of sauvignon blanc styles.

Even within companies, different micro-climates and soils and varied winemaking techniques such as ageing in oak, wild fermentations and low alcohol produced very different wines .

"Some are very passionfruity and forward, others are very reserved and mineral," she said.

The Aussie complaints smacked of jealousy, Ms Jackson said.

The Oyster Bay sauvignon Mr Tyrrell complained of was an excellent entry-level wine providing great value for money, and Aussies loved it, she said.

New Zealand Wine chief executive Philip Gregan said consumers in Australia and elsewhere appreciated Marlborough sauvignon was very, very good.

Demand would continue to grow, Mr Gregan said.

In 2009, New Zealand sauvignon blanc overtook chardonnay as the top selling white wine in Australia, with Kiwi savignon blanc now accounting for 39 per cent of white wine sold there. Of the 20 top-selling sauvignon blancs, 17 are from New Zealand and three from Australia.

At least one Marlborough winemaker used Twitter to respond to the Australian comments.

Te Whare Ra winery owner Anna Flowerday, who hails from Australia, sent a tweet saying that she was "getting pretty sick of Oz wine people bagging kiwi SB. You don't hear people over here dissing Oz Shiraz."

The Marlborough Express