Wednesday, 7 August 2013

In the heart of Rioja

We spent a lovely couple of weeks touring the north of Spain for our recent holiday, including an overnight stay in Laguardia - the "capital" of the Rioja Alavesa sub-region.
We stayed in a hotel just on the outskirts of the medieval walled city, which is on a hilltop overlooking vineyards all around, with the impressive Sierra de Cantabria mountains to the north.
In the evening we wandered up to the city for a walk around and a drink, and what a beautiful place it is. There are really only two cobbled streets running north to south, with little cross alleys in between. All narrow and cobbled - no cars - with bars and restaurants. Though this is not just a tourist place - there are plenty of occupied houses. In fact it is hardly touristy at all.
The most surprising thing - though given where it is, perhaps not such a surprise - is that the bars and the ares outside, are full of people drinking glasses of wine. The odd caña of cerveza, but mainly wine. Old men, young men, old women, and young women - all drinking the local Rioja - red, white or rosado. At at prices around €1.20 - 2.00 per glass why wouldn't you?
Laguardia is the home for many Rioja companies, including Solar Rioja, which is represented on BInendwines' website with their Red and their White. Both of these are superb examples of wine from the Rioja Alavesa and are on our list at a considerable discount to the original prices. In fact we have recently reduced the prices even further.
The Red is just £5.50 - and the white £5.25.
You will not find better value anywhere.
Click on this link for the red -

and this for the White -

Brian Binns

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A Tale of Two Wines

This is the story of two Australian Red Wines.

The first is “Masterpeace Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon” by Andrew Peace Wines, making a nice pun on the owner’s surname – not that Brian Binns of Binendwines would ever do such a thing!

This wine comes from the “catch-all” area of South East Australia, where vineyards along the Murray River valley straddle the three states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, hence the convoluted “regional” description. This is a vast area, where the making of wines often requires lorry trains of grapes being transported overnight to wineries to be vinified into wine. This is not to decry all wines from South East Australia, after all the vast majority of major branded wines come from here; brands such as Jacobs Creek, Hardy’s, Lindeman’s, etc, even brands on our website such as McGuigan Black Label and Runamok. However, there can be, and most certainly is, variable quality of fruit from such a vast area, and you can also be certain that where wines are produced to a price, they will not have the quality of others. However, how do we determine the price, and therefore the value and quality of such a wide selection of wines? Masterpeace Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was on sale at Morrison’s for £8.99, so you could be led to believe that this is a far better wine than one at say £6.99. However, it was only on sale at that price so it could be put on a “half-price” promotion for a few weeks at £4.49, before reverting to its £8.99 level for another few months. Additionally, you can be assured that Morrison’s, along with every other supermarket chain that uses this promotional trick, bought this wine at an advantageous cost price which reflects the £4.49 price tag. Now we’re not saying that Masterpeace Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a poor wine, it most certainly isn’t, and we have it listed at Binendwines. The difference is that our price is a permanent £4.49 – well until we sell the limited stock we have. We would suggest its value is around the £5-£5.50 mark. Incidentally, this wine was shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, many other wines are, but it just highlights that this is an everyday, quaffing wine, and not an £8.99 one.

The second wine is Geoff Merrill’s S.G.M. This is what the wine world calls a classic Rhône style, being a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvèdre. It was made by one of Australia’s best winemakers, from grapes grown on their own Estate in the one of the most prestigious regions in the whole of Australia, McLaren Vale. The wine we have at Binendwines is the 2006 vintage, which scored 90 points in the “Wine 100” magazine. This wine was not only made from the very best fruit, it was also aged in small oak barrels and not bottled until 2009. It is a wine made from the winemakers own grapes, and bottled at the winemakers. This wine is improving as every year passes and will drink well into 2014. It is a very powerful, complex and luscious wine, able to complement any red meat dish. Now we’re not trying to directly compare the style and quality of this wine to the wine above, they are two totally different entities, and both appropriate for the occasion to which they are suited. To give you some idea of this wine’s quality, it sells on other websites at prices up to £13, with its RRP even higher.
However, at Binendwines we are offering this wine, in very limited quantities, for just £7.95.

So, here’s the important question. Which wine would you rather put in your shopping basket? The Masterpeace at £8.99 in Morrison’s, or the Geoff Merrill S.G.M. at £7.95 at Binendwines?
Alternatively, to add a third option, why not buy the Masterpeace at £4.49 at Binendwines, for everyday drinking; and the Merrill at £7.95 for your weekend roast?

Click on this link for all of our Australian Reds:

Nb Although Morrison’s stock other Masterpeace varietals at £8.99; to the best of our knowledge, they don’t now stock the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - or bargain or not?

The Marlborough region in New Zealand can rightly claim to be one of the wine world’s success stories in the past decade. Success often brings problems though, and expansion through increased plantings over the years has resulted in a record-breaking harvest in 2009. How can a better harvest be a problem you may ask? Well the yield in 2009 was roughly in line with that of 2008, which was also record-breaking, and a whopping 39% up on 2007. As a result, Marlborough had an over-supply problem, and we have seen the results in the UK with NZ winegrowers wanting to clear their tanks and selling a lot of their wine in bulk.

Pop into any UK supermarket at the moment and you will see Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wines on promotion at hitherto seen low prices. However, take a closer look. Tesco has Wairau Cove at £4.99, reduced from £9.99; Sainsbury’s has Milford Point and Makutu, both offered on “half-price deals” at £4.49, reduced from £9.99. Morrison’s have Okiwi Bay and Crux, though when I called at my local branch they were at £9.99 – though there is no doubt that they have been, or will be, sold at £4.49/£4.99 at sometime. Bargain Booze and Asda have similar “offers”.

What connects all these wines is that they are on totally false promotions. They would have course have to have been sold at the “original price” at some time, somewhere, to comply with the law, but don’t be misled, these wines were bought to be sold at the “promotional price”. If that’s not bad enough, those that have paid the so-called original price will have been cruelly ripped off.

What is also common with these “manufactured brands” is that all the wine for them was shipped in bulk containers and bottled in the UK. Whilst this fairly common practice is suitable for everyday, drinking plonk, there are those in the trade who would suggest that the very best wines should be bottled on the estate or at least in the area of production. It would also be logical to assume that these bulk wine shipments, made to reduce the overall juice held in New Zealand, would not have been of the very best production.

Marlborough is similar to most other wine regions of the world, in that there are sub-regions where the topography, soil conditions, and micro-climate (what the French call Terroir) combine to produce grapes, and therefore wines, of a higher quality than those from the general area. All the best-known and respected brand names select their fruit from the very best of these top vineyards.

So, would you rather pay around £5 for a wine of lesser quality, that has been bulk-shipped and then bottled in Manchester or Essex, or pay that little bit extra for a multi award-winning wine of known provenance. What is more, this branded wine is offering considerable genuine savings on its original selling price.

Check out the current offer on Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc on our website where you can buy this highly rated wine at a price equating to just £6.63.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

False Wine Promotions

The public have been warned against false price promotions on wine for quite some time now, but the practice still continues. I have been researching this and found an article in the press over 3 years ago, and I reproduce a snippet of it below.

Supermarket shoppers are being ripped off by bogus 'half-price' deals on millions of bottles of wine, a leading drinks boss has warned.
High street giants are misleading customers who think that they are getting a great deal but are actually just paying the correct price, according to Jean-Manuel Spriet, chief executive of Pernod Ricard UK.
The practice of 'marking up, only to mark down' has been rife for years, according to industry experts. The supermarket pretends to be offering a 'great discount' on a £7.99 bottle of wine, but the real price of the wine is £3.99.
'They make the wines designed for sale at £3.99, introduce them at a higher price, and then bring the price down,' said Mr Spriet.
'They start at £7.99 and are discounted down to half price which is crazy.

This article was in The Daily Mail, but over the years there has been similar comment in The Telegraph, The Observer and The Times amongst others.

Do not be foooled by these false promotions - what I like to call "The DFS syndrome" - if you are paying £3.99, you are getting a £3.99 wine - not a £7.99 wine at half price.

Another misleading type of promotion was the one that was prevalent in Threshers/Wine Rack/Haddows where the offer was "Buy 3, only pay for 2". What they omitted to mention was that the single bottle price had been inflated by a third in the first place. The holding company of this chain, First Quench, has just gone into administration, so its promotional tactic obviously didn't fool the public.

And whilst I'm on the subject of false promotions, do not be taken in either by the "Half Price" case offers in the Sunday Supplements by many of the larger mail-order retailers. Do you honestly believe that a company could afford to lose half their revenue, and pay the large amounts needed to advertise in the Weekend Press? Of course they couldn't - the wines were never that price in the first place - well strictly speaking they had to be by law - but it was still a false figure solely for the purpose of halving it later.

On our website the reductions are shown against the price that we have seen charged for those wines previously. No false figures - just genuine reductions.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

7th Continent Wines

Diageo is the world’s biggest drinks group with brands such as Johnny Walker, Baileys, Gordon’s, Guinness and countless others that are almost household names. Being formed from takeovers and mergers between spirits producers and breweries it never really had a presence in the wine market. That was until 2006 when it sent eyes rolling in sockets all over the drinks world with the announcement of a new Australian wine brand. In a retail environment ever more dominated by multi-nationals and multi-grocers, the trade could have been forgiven in thinking that it needed another million-case monster like a hole in the head. Bearing in mind however that Australia has been one of the most dynamic wine performers of the last decade, particularly in the UK and US, the lack of an Aussie wine in the group's portfolio had been glaring.

The name chosen for this brand was “7th Continent”, obviously identifying Australia, but Diageo surprised the trade even more by the totally different marketing strategy adopted. For a start it wasn’t a big, sweet, blowsy Blossom Hill type range with a Bush Tucker hat. Additionally Diageo eschewed the accepted wisdom that a brand needed to launch at 'entry-level' with two or three varietals, then move consumers up through a succession of reserves and premiums to some notional winemaker's indulgence. No, they went straight in at a £7.99/£8.49 level, but not as many other brands had done at this level just for the contrived purpose to be "Bogged Off" (BOGOF - buy one, get one free for the uninitiated) in the future to generate sales.

There were eventually up to 15 wines in the range, but the wines were not inter-regional blends of the sort that powered Australia to its dominant position in the UK, but were specific regional expressions. Here wine drinkers could compare and contrast Cabernets and Merlots from several individual regions, and see how a Hunter Valley Shiraz, a Clare Valley Riesling or an Adelaide Hills Viognier were far superior to multi-regional blended wines.

Diageo consciously wanted to make consumers reassess what they knew about Australia; to readdress the 'deep-cut, gondola end' imagery that had hurt the country's image over the last few years and to provide a trade-up brand for younger wine drinkers who came into the category through Australia, but had migrated elsewhere when looking for a special occasion wine.

The thinking was logical, laudable even – yet despite getting listings with Threshers, Tesco and others, the brand ultimately failed. Probably because the whole 'Brand Australia' hype had sunk deep into the psyche of the wine-buying public all over the world, getting across the regionality message proved hellishly difficult to achieve. Market research can show all it likes about consumers wanting a new, more upmarket Australia, but there's a big difference between the focus group and the supermarket aisle.

Their loss is our gain though, as is now able to offer some of this range at prices showing up to 40% less than the original prices. The original prices were genuinely in the £7.99/£8.49 range – not the false levels one sees everyday in supermarkets in the “Was £7.99 – now half price at £3.99” offers. As has been stated here and in the national press, such “half-price” offers are totally false – all of these wines promoted in this manner have been specifically produced to sell at £3.99 in the first place.

So, forget Lindemans, Hardy’s, etc and all the other multi-regional blends – experience the taste of regional Australia and see how trading up can bring you far better wines with individual characteristics. Except with our discounts, you don’t have to trade up in price.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Bordeaux vs New Zealand

The sound of jaws crashing to the floor echoed around Pall Mall a few weeks ago. High up in the penthouse suite of New Zealand House, 30 or so UK Masters of Wine, sommeliers, wine buyers and journalists had joined in a special blind tasting. The results were to say the least, astonishing.
They were comparing the very best from Bordeaux with wines from Gimblett Gravels, a sub-region of Hawkes Bay in New Zealand’s North Island. This 800-hectare appellation is centred on the gravel of the old Ngaruroror River, and local winemakers believe the soil and climate to be so exceptional that their terroir is up there with the best to be found in Bordeaux. The Gimblett Gravels wines are made from the classic Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The tasting compared six 2005/2006 New Zealand wines with six 2005 clarets.
Some of Britain’s finest tasters were there, including Jancis Robinson, Michael Schuster and Oz Clarke, along with buyers from the likes of Waitrose, the Wine Society and Berry Bros and Rudd. Many of them seemed confused and unsure. The tasting sheets were handed in and the marks added together to reveal a collective top six. The first three spots (and fifth) go to Bordeaux, and the experts nodded their heads knowingly. Their fourth and sixth favourites though were from New Zealand; a pretty good showing they all agreed, with applause all round.
Then the bombshell. The wine’s identities were revealed and they gasped when they discovered which were the Bordeaux wines. The top three were: 2005 Château Lafite-Rothschild (£975), 2005 Château Mouton-Rothschild (£675), and 2005 Château Angélus (£295). Just off the podium in fourth was 2006 Sacred Hill “Helmsman” at – wait for it – a staggeringly modest £17.95 a bottle. 2005 Château Haut-Brion (£700) was fifth, and 2006 Newton Forrest “Cornerstone” – at just £15 a bottle – was sixth.
Bordeaux as we all know is seriously overpriced, but this result has driven it home. Why spend almost a grand a bottle when you could spend barely £18 for something jus as good. It can’t be for the rarity value: 25,000 cases of 2005 Château Lafite-Rothschild were produced, compared with just 130 of the 2006 Sacred Hill “Helmsman”.
At we can’t offer you any of the wines listed above – the Bordeaux are frankly beyond the scope of this modest business, and the New Zealand wines are only available from the direct importers. However given that in most instances, the best of these vintages is yet to come following lengthy cellaring, perhaps you would like to avail yourself of a more mature example.
Newly listed in late April is the 2000 vintage from Trinity Hill Cabernet/Merlot by the renowned winemaker John Hancock. But what is more you don’t even have to pay £18 or even £15 for it – though there are other outlets selling it for around £15. My price for what is very limited stock is just £5.95 – the bargain of the year so far. But hurry – when it’s gone – it’s gone!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Wine buyer screwed.

From "The Sydney Morning Herald"

Neville Sloss, from Teven, received a glossy wine brochure in the post offering him a beautiful lever-action corkscrew valued at $70 free if he bought the special dozen bottles for $99. "Fantastic offer if you could use the corkscrew," he writes, but points out: "Every one of the dozen wines has a screw top!"