Neil Hodgson's wine column
I think it is widely accepted that as a society we need to do something about alcohol abuse in New Zealand, particularly, but not exclusively, by the young people in our communities.
This may sound a bit odd coming from someone who loves a particular type of alcoholic beverage but I like to think I write about and promote wine as a beverage to enjoy in moderation with food, which is the best way to consume it. Like many in the community, my heart sinks whenever I see 13, 14 and 15-year-old kids walking the streets drunk at 11pm; it simply isn't right and the issue must be addressed.
The Government is considering legislation that will toughen up the sale of alcohol, who can buy it, at what age, who can sell it, and from where. This legislation is already having an effect on the fine wine industry and I think some parts of this industry are being unfairly caught up in legislation designed to deal with a problem I don't see them contributing to.
I absolutely don't have an issue with outlets caught selling alcohol to underage people being penalised in some way; at the moment the law says the minimum age to buy alcohol is 18 years and if a retailer is silly enough to sell to a 16-year-old, they need to take responsibility.
The issue I have is one that I walked into last week. I stopped at one of our favourite gourmet delicatessens and butchers, O'Neill's in Richmond, and Geoff told me he wasn't selling wine any more. He had offered a small range of about 12 different premium wines, some from France and some local with an average price of about $30 a bottle. To me this is the perfect way to sell fine wine: a gourmet food store selling wine to people who appreciate great quality food and want something of similar quality to drink with it.
It turns out that because his shop is so small he will not meet the minimum store size to sell alcohol. The minimum store size rule is designed to remove alcohol from corner dairies where the product stocked tends to be cheap and easily accessible by the young age group we are trying to protect from the effects of alcohol.
Another factor in Geoff's decision is the expected huge increase in the cost of obtaining and renewing a liquor licence every year. Because wine was a very small part of the gourmet produce he offered, selling fine wine just isn't worth the cost. I think this is where the law change has got it wrong: it actually removes the ability for some responsible retailers to promote wine for consumption the way it is meant to be, in moderation with food.
Many small winery cellar door outlets are also going to close because the cost of obtaining and renewing an off-licence is simply too expensive. Most of these outlets provide tastings but don't actually sell huge amounts of wine; for them it is about promoting their range so people will order it off a wine list or pick it up off the supermarket shelf.
Somewhere among all the good things the legislation does there needs to be room for gourmet and cellar door outlets to continue providing a responsible service.
I HAVE BEEN DRINKING
Matawhero 2011 Chardonnay – $27 Mouthfilling, creamy, ripe-apple-pie flavours with lashings of toasted brioche and a very long spicy finish. Made from the first crop of fruit from new plantings, this rich wine is a great start and indicates even better things to come.
Neudorf Moutere 2011 Riesling Dry – $29.90 The first Moutere dry riesling since 2000 and while this is a very young wine, the delicate citrus blossom flavours are enhanced by dusty river stone minerality tied together with linear acidity that also balances the natural ripe fruit characters. A fantastic wine that will live for six to 10 years in the cellar.
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