New Zealand winemaker under fire for using ‘inferior’ Australian grapes
By law, New Zealand wines must display the wine’s origin, but the vast majority of New Zealand wines – including Montana – print ‘Wine of Australia’ in small-type on the back of the bottle next
One of New Zealand’s most famous winemakers has angered critics by using grapes from Australia in its popular sauvignon blanc.
Wine behemoth Montana, which claims to have created New Zealand’s first bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc in the 1970s, started using Australian grapes as a cost-cutting measure.
Sauvignon blanc is now enjoyed around the world, and accounts for around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s wine exports, which exceed NZ$1 billion (US$733 million) a year.
But Montana – now owned by global giant Pernod Ricard and trading internationally as Brancott Estate – has followed the lead of smaller industry players by filling some of its domestic bottles of New Zealand wine with Australian grapes.
Kevin Mapson, managing director of Pernod Ricard New Zealand, said the move to phase out the use of New Zealand grapes in their “Classic” and “Affinity” series, which retail for less than NZ$10 a bottle, is in response to increased consumer demand for cheap wine and the rising cost of New Zealand grapes.
Montana had been trialling the use of Australian grapes since February 2017, with bottles of Montana’s sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot noir, chardonnay, and merlot cabernet using Australian grapes for New Zealand drinkers.
“We try to mimic the wine style as much as possible and have sourced grapes from the cooler parts of Australia, that mostly closely reflect the flavour and quality of New Zealand fruit,” Mapson said.
“It is increasingly challenging to produce New Zealand-sourced wine for the under NZ$10 category. By sourcing grapes from Australia, we can continue to make wines of the quality that Montana consumers expect at the same price point.”
Montana is not alone in the move, which is upsetting New Zealanders who have become accustomed to enjoying genuine New Zealand wine for under NZ$10 a bottle.
Other household names who offer New Zealand wines filled with Australian grapes include Shingle Peak (named after a mountain in the Marlborough region) Kim Crawford, Gunn Estate and Longridge.
By law, New Zealand wines must display the wine’s origin, but the vast majority of New Zealand wines – including Montana – print “Wine of Australia” in small-type on the back of the bottle next to the barcode.
Bob Campbell, a leading New Zealand wine critic, vented in his blog about what he regarded as Montana’s use of “deceptive packaging”.
“The Montana Wines brand is as Kiwi as Buzzy Bee, Jaffas and Fred Dagg,” wrote Campbell. “It’s a fact that bulk Australian sauvignon is cheaper than bulk Marlborough sauvignon. There’s a reason for the price difference – Australian sauvignon blanc is, by and large, inferior.”