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I was on twitter a couple of weeks ago talking to Jayson Bryant from New Zealand (twitter: @jayson_bryant) about wine when it struck me that the selection of white wine from NZ  relative to Australian white wine on our shelves had changed rather dramatically over the 3 years I have been in the store.

Today, our selection ratio of NZ to Australian wine is less than 1:2. 3 years ago it would have been more like 1:5. I thought that we on Bowen might not be representative of the general Vancouver market so decided to check things out in downtown Vancouver.

Much to my surprise, our ratio is not markedly different to most stores. The 5 private wine stores I visited had ratios varying from 1:1 to 1:2 and then I visited the big BCLDB flagship store on Bute and Alberni. Their selection was very much closer to 1:1 and, checking the BCLDB website, the actual listings in BC for NZ white to Australian whites is 54 to 73 or very nearly 1:1!

This is a dramatic shift in market balance from years ago when the Australian powerhouse dominated the two countries white wine sales in BC. How has this come about?

Firstly, although there have been an increase in NZ wine selection, the primary reason the ratio is closing is that there has been a marked reduction in Australian whites in the market here. This is reflective of the shift away from all those heavily-oaked Aussie chardonnays so popular in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Secondly, here in BC, New Zealand was the theme country for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival (VPIWF) this year so NZ received lots of local exposure for their increasingly diverse selection of both red and white wines.

Both countries still make great wines but the trend is very much in favour of NZ at the moment. While NZ is hugely strong with their Sauvignon Blancs, I was really impressed with the Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminers and Rieslings I tasted at VPIWF plus NZ Pinot Noirs are coming on in leaps and bounds with Syrahs not far behind.

There are potentially lessons for the BC wine industry here too. Although our industry is younger than NZ’s, the total population of NZ is the same as BC’s and their domestic wine consumption is almost the same per capita as here. NZ is growing now on the strength of its export prowess not so much on its local support. Perhaps it is time that the BC wine industry focuses more on exporting than on local marketing – after all, we should have huge advantages in being next door to the USA whereas NZ is 20ookm away from its nearest large market and major competitor – Australia.

On Bowen, we have already increased our NZ selection in both reds and whites and more to come in our new store (opening January 2011) I think the white ratio will drop much closer to 1:1 then. Maybe we’ll even start to see the selection ratio on the reds starting to shift too.

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As an aide-memoire for everyone who came to our BC Wine Fest or the Unusual Grapes tasting here’s a list of the wines you may have sampled.

BC Wine Fest Aug 13-15

Friday Aug 13

Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc ’08 – successor to the very popular ’07 vintage. Lots of depth and some strawberry. Will cellar well.

Tinhorn Creek Merlot ’08 – big, robust merlot, typically BC. Great comments on this from tasters.

Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer ’09 – round and quaffable. very easy drinking Gewurz

Stag’s Hollow Sauvignon Blanc ’09 – softer than the ’08 version. Very nice easy to drink wine

Saturday August 14

CedarCreek Proprietor’s White ’09 – neat little blend, excellent & economic patio sipper.

Dirty Laundry Unoaked Chardonnay ’08 – easy drinking chardonnay for those who don’t like big oak.

Dirty Laundry Woo Woo Gewurztraminer ’09 – another really nice Gewurz. More classical than the Tinhorn. The Woo Woo is the middle of DL’s range of gewurztraminers.

Dirty Laundry Hush ’09 – Rosé blend that is 50% Cab Franc, 30% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Blanc, 5% Cab/Merlot & 6% hush hush – the BIG hit of the weekend.

Sunday Aug 15

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay ’08 – very Burgundian, lots of mineralality. My favourite of the weekend’s chardonnays.

Blasted Church Revered Chardonnay ’09 – The People’s chardonnay choice with lots of oak. Tasters really enjoyed the chance to compare unoaked and oaked at this session.

Joie Farm Riesling ’09 – As one taster said, “very Alsatian” which is exactly the region that inspires Joie’s wine. Raised a few eyebrows about how good Riesling can be  for those that think of it as sweet wine & certainly won some converts to the noblest of white grapes.

Blasted Church Gewurztraminer ’09 – Our #1 selling Gewurz this year and for good reason. Great price/value. Any of the three gewurz we opened over the weekend are ideal introductions to the grape. Think spicy asian food with these Gewurz.

Joie Farm Rosé `09 – Latest edition of this very popular pink.

Unusual Grapes #2 – Greece, Saturday Aug 21

Boutari Moschofilero ’09 -a white wine for P.Gris/Grigio & Sauvignon Blanc fans. Richer than the Lafazanis below.Thessaly is the area this is grown.

Lafazanis White ’09 – made from the Rhoditis grape, grown in the Peleponnese. Super value 1 litre bottle,  this wine is an excellent patio sipper – made for Greek salad too!

Lafazanis Red ’09 – from the Agiorgitiko grape (also Peleponnese area), a light red similar to Gamay or Pinot Noir. The grape is known as the ‘noble’ grape of Greece. Also in 1L bottles. Think lanb Souvlaki.

The Lafazanis wines were a huge hit with tasters, great value and tasty summer wines.

All the wines tasted over the two events are in regular stock now or will be back within 2 weeks.


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