Cheaper wine arrives

There's growing chance that when New Zealanders raise a glass or two on New Year's Eve, the wine will come from France.

A strong New Zealand dollar, a weak euro and generally tough times in Europe have significantly reduced the cost of European wine, which is cheaper and more widely available than usual.

Richard Knight, the director of the country's largest online wine retailer, said the price falls were affecting wines from all over Europe but his company had mainly increased its imports of French red wines and Champagne because these were the most popular with consumers.

It is currently offering French syrahs such as Cotes du Rhone at $13.66 a bottle compared with nearly $20 in previous years.

Knight said he and the distributors he dealt with used to import mixed containers of French wines but were now ordering individual wines by the container, which created economies of scale, bringing down prices.

It is Australian producers rather than New Zealand wineries that are bearing the brunt of the increased competition.

Syrah is a full flavoured red wine that is a popular drink at summer barbecues and Knight said it appeared most people were buying it instead of its Australian equivalent, shiraz.

However, New Zealand sparkling wine producers may also face competition from French wines over the festive season. Most Champagne sells in the $60-$100 range, with anything around $50 considered a bargain. But that price barrier has been broken, with Blackmarket offering Champagne Ernest Rapeneau for under $28 a bottle. Also in the shops is Champagne Lanvin, a gold medal winner which has been praised by Cuisine magazine, for around $36 a bottle.

Sunday Star Times