THE DECLINE OF WINE DRINKING

A fascinating Listener article by Michael Cooper revealed a huge social change in New Zealand, specifically that our wine consumption has dropped by almost 40% over the last decade. If it was a 1% fall I’d put my hand up as the culprit. For nigh on four decades I averaged at least two bottles of red daily without any detrimental effect but about 18 months back I experienced my first ever hangover. Now I’ve lost the habit and don’t drink wine any more.

Cooper reported a similar phenomenon in Britain and America. Apparently the vast majority of wine drinkers are now over 55, the young either not drinking, an aspect I suspect of currently fashionable wokist wet puritanism, or opting for other diluted alcohol options.

Cooper revealed, there are 730 wine producers surviving in New Zealand, the vast majority small-time.

It’s something which has fascinated me since the 1980s, namely otherwise sensible blokes wanting to have their own vineyard, or, as they put it, their own label.

For God’s sake, it’s hard to imagine a more excruciatingly boring pursuit. Rows of plants in a treeless setting hardly offers an attractive rustic life-style. A snail farm would be more interesting.

The “having ones own label” types have deservedly been figures of fun for decades. Ridicule aside they’ve paid a hell of a price.

Last year we took the mickey out of my Auckland based C.E.O Greg Loveridge and had bottles of red in smart presentation boxes sent out to everyone he dealt with. The front label bore the message “Lover Ridge Wine from the estate of Greg Loveridge” and the back, the advice, “Our grapes personally foot trampled by Mr and Mrs Greg Loveridge”.

Seemingly that was a step too far as he was inundated with calls from recipients advising the Wellington office was taking the piss out of him.

Faux snobbishness pertaining to wine reached its pinnacle in the 1980s when the better restaurants all employed a wine waiter whose babble about the options was always a source of humour. They disappeared in the post 1987 share-market crash recession for more fitting careers to suit their talents, such as stop-go sign holders.

Plainly over the next few years we can expect perhaps half of all New Zealand’s vineyards to be transformed to other agricultural activities, in the process restoring a balance between supply and demand and one could well add, between common sense and fantasy.

10 Comments

There’s an old saying that “the easiest way to make a small fortune out of winemaking, is to start with a large fortune”.

    That is a bit like all primary industry. When asked what a farmer would do if he won lotto he said keep.farming till it was gone.

As an ex-wine waiter I can’t but agree. I had to get my information from others as I couldn’t (can’t) for the life of me detect the specific tastes evidently in wine (The “babble” was part of the job and expected.).

I just enjoy the taste of most reds when I drink them.

I’ve been to wine producing regions in Spain, Portugal, France,Italy,Austraya,….a decent red from any of these places neednt cost more than $15-$20 here in NZ. Sadly most reds of any note from NZ seem to be at least $25-$30. And most struggle to foot it with wine from the regions I mention. I reckon thats the problem with NZ growers. Jeeze Bob if I had 2 bottles of red a night I’d be waving the white flag very quickly.!

All true enough, but dont forget the greater bulk of the wine we make is exported, thanks to the exceptional NZ Wine Growers organisation and their outstanding long time CEO Philip Gregan

Your last comment Sir Bob goes against what is happening here in Marlborough, where every bit of suitable land is now in grapes and some very unsuitable land is now being planted. The companies cannot get enough suitable land. Obviously they have huge forward orders for overseas exports.

Sam Neil seems have done ok. Mind you he has been at it for decades and probably just paid folk to do the hard stuff.

Could the rise of craft beers explain wine’s decline?

I’ve always been a cider fan as it’s a pleasant mid-point between beer and wine. I also like a few glasses of cheeky supermarket plonk of an evening, usually cheap pinot gris or chardonnay. chin, chin. Here’s looking up your old address as Col. Henry Blake used to say 🙂

Wine sales in New Zealand are declining because it’s too bloody expensive. compare that to spain where you can buy a nice bottle of red for a New Zealand dollar… And a can of Beer for 26 cents.

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