Blends push wine industry changes

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 08:44 12/11/2012
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There was a time when progress was measured in the wine industry by generations, which didn't do a hell of a lot for innovation or for the acceptance of this ancient nectar of the gods by people who, generally, would rather have a beer.

That has of course changed and continues to do so.

In New Zealand, the sherries, ports, and other fortified wines are no longer tipple de jour. They have been replaced by table wines - not those that came in cardboard casks, but wines of all creeds, colours, tastes and with impeccable breeding.

Looking today at the supermarket and the wineshop shelves you could be excused for thinking there is something on the market to satisfy just about everyone.

But it seems not.

The growing interest in wine and the need by those who make it to snare new customers has seen in the past few years more innovation than at just about any time in the history of the industry.

This week, for instance, Peter Yealands, the Marlborough wine revolutionary announced the launch of something called sauvignoir.

It's not a mix of sauvignon blanc and pinot noir but a blend of mostly (95 per cent) sav, the rest teinturier, a fleshy red grape from Chile, which does little else than turn the wine a vibrant red colour and adds a bit of flavour and weight.

So in essence it's a designer wine - a light, fresh, crisp and fruity Marlborough sauvignon blanc dyed red and with just a hint of berries. It sells for $18.98.

Why bother?

According to Yealands: To satisfy consumers' evolving tastes, to meet a growing demand for innovative sauvignon blanc and a growing sense of adventure among wine drinkers, especially those in China, where the lucky colour just happens to be red.

The decision by Invivo to do much the same thing and launch a rose under its Belle low-calorie wine label is based on more practical experience. Sales of its light (nine per cent alcohol) Belle Sauvignon Blanc has grown by 200 per cent since its launch in 2010.

It's on the back of this the designer wine company ("official" wine supplier to the Graham Norton Show) has now launched its new sauvignon-pinot noir Belle blend and Brancott Estate (Pernod Ricard) has got in on the act with its new Flight low-alcohol range, initially with a sauvignon blanc and a pinot gris.

And the evolution, revolution, whatever you want to call it, doesn't end there, though the first steps in what could be the next big thing are being taken in the United States, not here.

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In this case we're talking wine beer, with the launch already of a Vintage Blonde Ale - a beer brewed with malted wheat and concentrated chardonnay grape juice - by an outfit called Blue Moon, which originally wanted to call the new hybrid Chardonnay Blonde but was prevented by the US government from doing so.

Such has been the reaction that the brew will this year be sold nationally in the US and another is about to be launched - this one using wheat beer and sauvignon blanc, God forbid.

What comes next, when, and from whom is anybody's guess.

Meantime, try Yealands sauvignoir or one of these:

Brancott Estate 2012 Flight Sauvignon Blanc, about $26
A gold medal-winning wine that has not been mechanically manipulated to reduce the alcohol level (nine per cent) but was made from grapes picked early, when sugar levels are lower. A slightly lighter, sweeter but clearly Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

Invivo 2012 Belle Rose, about $20
A see-through pink wine that comes in a clear bottle and looks inviting from the start. It weighs in at 80 calories a glass and is, as you might expect from such a blend, a vibrant mix of mostly tropical fruits with sweet berryfruit. An ideal summer-in-the-garden wine.

Brancott Estate 2012 Flight Pinot Gris, about $26
A lighter, more delicate style of pinot gris that at nine per cent alcohol makes some allowance for that extra glass on a summer's day. Soft and gentle with subtle stonefruit, pear and herbal flavours. Will suit those with a slightly sweeter (medium) tooth.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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