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Suck on these figures for a moment:
- Sauvignon blanc accounts for 39 per cent of all white wine sold at retail in Australia
- 17 of Australia's 20 top-selling sauvignon blancs are Kiwi
- Of the $415 million growth in wine sales in Australia during the past five years, $270m was on New Zealand imports, mostly sauvignon blancs.
How might an Australian winemaker respond to these figures? By tapping into that Aussie skill for sledging.
That is what happened when Sydney Morning Herald writer Rick Feneley went searching for some reaction to the success of Marlborough wines across the Tasman. He took a bottle of our Oyster Bay savvy - the top-selling white wine over there - and presented it to some wine industry notables for a verdict.
They came up with a range of responses, all derogatory, all snarky, all predictable.
Winery owner Bruce Tyrrell scoffed at the bursts of "passionfruit . . . body odour . . . cat's pee . . . lantana [a noxious weed best treated with Roundup]."
PR man Stuart Gregor, who once peddled vintages for Montana and Stoneleigh, was also asked to pass an opinion: "Kiwifruit, sweat and cat's piss on a mulberry bush".
Now the owner of a company called Liquid Ideas, he is reported to have spent his best years developing his palate, but claims he would have trouble picking a $10 Kiwi savvy from one at $30-plus.
Might that be a reason he is no longer marketing the stuff?
These fellows are equally scathing of their fellow countrymen. They describe two fine Australian women - mother-and-daughter combination Kath and Kim - as "foxy morons" who have damaged the image of the chardonnays that once dominated liquor-store shelves. And the rest of the country are "sheep-like" buyers who base their tastes on what their mates are drinking, just as they rate Starbucks as good coffee and McDonald's as good food.
The verdict is that Marlborough is a one-trick pony; that its winemarkers have done nothing to make progress.
Australians do know how to make good wine - most of it red. These reported comments are nothing more than a fit of pique brought on by a new listener.
As Marlborough looks forward to a weekend of celebrating some of its finest produce, we can remain confident that we produce some of the best in the world.
So cork it, you Aussie lot.
- The Marlborough Express