Neil Hodgson's wine column
For the last month or so my inbox has been filling up with offers from importers offering to sell me bordeaux wines on an en primeur basis; that is pay for the wine now and pay freight, GST and excise duty when the wine is delivered in a year or so.
The French region of Bordeaux is arguably home to some of the world's greatest and most long-lived wines, and those producers with the finest reputations command exceptional prices.
Single bottles of bordeaux from exceptional old vintages can sell for tens of thousands of dollars, and some of the wines from the average 2011 vintage being offered to me (and others of course) come with a price tag of well over $1000 a bottle. It goes without saying these won't be finding their way into our cellar.
But this all raises a good question – does expensive mean good? And does ultra-premium pricing mean the wine tastes any better than an average bottle or for that matter a cheap bottle?
For these ultra-premium bordeaux wines to show their true quality, they need to be cellared for 15 years plus before you even think about opening one. While the average person may think it is a great wine and really good to drink, the average person probably hasn't developed their tasting skills to a level where the wine can be fully appreciated.
It really does sound quite pretentious, but there is some truth in it; unless you spend many hours and many thousands of dollars training your palate to taste the minute differences in flavour and texture, then it is unlikely you will be able to tell the difference between a great averagely priced wine and an ultra-premium wine.
So, does expensive mean good? For me the answer is yes, but not always. I have had some stunning wines that deserve the price tag and I have had some very expensive wines I wouldn't bother with again irrespective of price.
We have a friend who is opening an Italian restaurant in Nelson soon and he is determined to have cheap Italian wines on offer, wines that taste good, go well with the food, but are cheap.
That is absolutely fine, but for those who want something with more defined structure and layers of intriguing flavours, and are prepared to pay a bit more, then I think he should offer us the choice. Are you listening, Mick?
My advice is to take some time to learn about the flavours you like, then find a wine that fits your taste buds and it doesn't matter if it is $10 or, if you like it and can afford it, $100 – enjoy without feeling guilty.
I HAVE BEEN DRINKING
Kahurangi Estate International Selections import a range of great-value bordeaux wines from premium producers but from lower-value vineyards, and a couple that really caught my attention are:
Mouton Cadet Reserve 2010 Medoc – RRP$32 From just north of the Bordeaux centre this wine from Medoc doesn't cost $1000 and it is fantastic drinking. Deep ruby red and packed with layers of ripe blackberry flavours, a touch of blackcurrant spice and a very long mouth-watering finish all add up to an elegant wine that is great drinking now and will cellar for five years plus.
Mouton Cadet 2010 Bordeaux – RRP$23 Sparkling ruby red in colour, aromas of ripe black cherries, soft oak and a touch of smokiness entice you to sample the supple flavours of blackcurrants and cherries within. Dry tannins with a touch of acidity make it a perfect wine to serve with a nice juicy steak. Fantastic value from a very good wine.