Under $20 (October 2019)

Can you buy a really good New Zealand wine for $20 or less? The short answer is yes. This month’s tasting unearthed plenty of highly satisfying, four-star examples of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, rosé and sparkling wine, all widely on sale for no more than $20.

Is wine getting cheaper or more expensive? A basket of goods and services that a decade ago cost $100 will now set you back about $117, according to the Reserve Bank’s inflation calculator. So have wine prices risen similarly?

To find out, I compared the prices of wines in the 2009 edition of the Buyer’s Guide with those in the latest edition. Supplied by the producers, these are the wines’ suggested ‘normal retail’ prices.

Firstly, I looked at six mid-priced wines from long-established, mostly family-owned wineries – Babich Sauvignon Blanc, Brookfields Bergman Chardonnay, Hunter’s Riesling, Mission Merlot, Saint Clair Pinot Gris and Seifried Gewürztraminer. A decade ago, this collection would have cost you $118. Since then, half of the wines have not altered their prices; the others have each risen or fallen by no more than three dollars; and their total price is identical – $118.

What about brands often stacked in supermarkets? Down by 19 per cent! How can that be? Six years ago, legislation came into force that banned the advertising of discounts over 25 per cent on alcoholic beverages, except inside licensed premises. Until then, wineries commonly ‘priced up to price down’, thereby creating the scope for discounts that always looked far better on paper than in the glass. Once the advertising of ‘50% off’ discounts was banned, the supposed ‘normal retail’ prices of many wines dropped dramatically.

How about the country’s ‘icon’ wines? It’s bad news – at least for consumers. The average price of such prestigious reds as Te Mata Coleraine, Trinity Hill Homage Syrah and Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir has climbed over the past decade by 40 per cent.

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