Expert exposes wine discounting ruses

Wine writer Michael Cooper

New Zealand consumers must wise up to the discounting deals offered by wine retailers and merchants, wine writer Michael Cooper says.

He launches his 2013 Buyer’s Guide this week and agrees with industry predictions that wine prices are set to rise.

But he says so much wine is sold on discount, and because everybody loves a bargain many people are paying more than they need to.

“The wine marketing merchants know this.” 

Mr Cooper says vineyards will launch a wine at $23 when it is really a $15 wine. Retailers will then discount it to that level and, believing it to be a bargain, shoppers will buy it.

“The problem is, people who make good wines and fairly price them tend to get overlooked.”

These wines tend to be mid-level producers, large enough to distribute nationally to supermarkets but not big enough to have the economies of scale for significant discounting.

These overlooked brands, he says, include CJ Pask, Babich and Ngatawara.

“You tend not to notice these wines. They are still offering good quality and value. It’s good for consumers not to use discounting as their method of buying wine.”

With wine stocks depleting to lower harvests, Mr Cooper agrees there will be less discounting in future.

New Zealand wine companies are likely to vacate the bottom end of the market, with Australian imports taking over that sector.

However, supermarkets are still likely to offer some of the best buys. Mr Cooper works with Foodstuffs in recommending wines of the week to it.

Overseas, supermarkets are increasingly offering their own label wines and there may one day be a Pam’s or Countdown in New Zealand.

Online websites have many good deals, Mr Cooper says, but it is hard to judge this, as often the wines are not sold elsewhere. Sometimes, the websites are used to simply clear off bulk quantities of poorer wines.

Specialist independent retailers may be more expensive but he says they can give useful advice to wine buyers.

There are trends away from traditional French grape varieties toward those from Italy and Spain, with gruner veltliner from Austria becoming popular.

Chardonnay is back in fashion, too, as it produces a fine dry white. However, consumers today prefer an unoaked chardonnay as opposed to the heavier oaked chardonnays of the past.

Cooper, whose 2013 Buyers’ Guide (Hodder Moa, $40 print, $25 e-book) is in its 21st edition, also says confidence is rising in the New Zealand wine sector now the era of gluts and lower prices are over.

However, while the wines produced are “better than ever” and the future looks good, the country faces an increasing challenge from Chile.

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3 Comments & Questions

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welcome the world of FMCG! If you want it to sell put a big yellow discount price sticker on it. Marketing 101.

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When I'm buying a nice cool summer drink then I'll look on the shelves for a Sauvignon Blanc that's between $12-15 that is a brand I know and have liked before.

Sale / non-sale - IT don't care - although I will admit that if I do see a bottle that is "reduced" by $10 that I have NOT tried that I've wanted to - then that bottle will get the nod.

Where it doesn't work is that is all I'm prepared to pay now. I've seen the same brands not on sale - as $20-22 - and that simply cannot be sustained when there is always a good maker somewhere in the store as the discount Sauvignon Blanc of the week..

The overall effect is that the price in the mind of a consumer is $12-15.

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@PJK - firstly keep buying the wine that is within your budget - but please extend this on special occasions to a more expensive wine. You'll be surprised - and most often pleasantly surprised - at the quality difference.

We have gone through a period of apparently severe discounting but the reality is that not much changes over time. When I first started drinking wine (mid 60s), it cost about $1.90 for a good wine (not great, but better than everyday), or about two hours work on the median wage of the time. Today $40 (at the same parameter) would buy you a wine of very good quality.

So for your birthday or the birthday of your significant other - or even old Aunty Myrtle's do experience something better. The world of wine is an exciting experience.

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