23 Jan 2014
By Wright Communications
Off premise outlets, restaurateurs, and others on Sacred Hill's fine wine data base all responded quickly and enthusiastically to the recent en primeur offer, creating unprecedented demand for the super premium wine.
Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay is always a limited release wine and, as with all Sacred Hill special Selection wines, is only made when growing conditions are as close to perfection as possible. The en primeur offer gave buyers a rare chance to secure the 2013 wine in advance, provided they purchased a minimum of a quarter barrique (72 bottles).
Sacred Hill winemaker Tony Bish says the offer was oversubscribed, attracting almost double the expected sales, something he puts down to the wine's loyal following, the 2013 vintage and the attractiveness of buying en primeur.
"We didn't make Riflemans in 2011 or 2012 which has created a demand for the wine, especially given the excitement around the exceptional 2013 vintage," Bish says.
"It was the rarity of the en primeur initiative, though, that clearly sparked interest in all sectors of the market."
Bish says the uptake from Sacred Hill's fine wine database was higher than expected, which he puts down, in part, to individuals forming syndicates specifically to purchase their quarter barrique of the sought after wine.
Bish says one of the most pleasing aspects of the success was the strong interest in the offer prior to critics reviewing the wine. Not surprisingly, uptake of the offer accelerated further once the glowing reviews began to emerge.
Wine writers on both sides of the Tasman have been unanimous in their accolades for the 2013 Riflemans Chardonnay. Australian Master of Wine Andrew Caillard led the charge with these comments.
"I consider it as New Zealand's finest Chardonnay. With its hallmarks of fruit complexity, richness, vibrancy and long cutting acidity, it possesses something extra and ethereal; almost impossible to describe yet real in the mind's eye."
He went on to describe the 2013 Riflemans Chardonnay as "near perfection in balance, complexity and freshness," rating it 98+ out of 100.
One en primeur buyer who shares Caillard's enthusiasm for the wine is restaurateur Richard Sigley of Nourish Group, who rates Riflemans Chardonnay as a must have for his restaurants, including the flagship Euro on Auckland's Princes Wharf.
"Riflemans is consistently one of New Zealand's best chardonnays and seems to get better every year. The 2013 is going to be one of the great New Zealand Chardonnays of all time," he says.
Sigley jumped at the chance to purchase en primeur in the knowledge that Riflemans is popular among his customers and there wouldn't be a lot available.
He also alerted his VIP customers to the opportunity to purchase the wine direct from Sacred Hill through the en primeur offer.
"It was incredibly well received and a lot of them showed interest. I was surprised at the uptake because en primeur is usually reserved for Bordeaux style reds. But the great product and vintage made this a success."
As a leading restaurateur, Sigley looks for a little exclusivity when choosing wines, with quality and security of supply at the forefront of his considerations.
"Chardonnay does seem to be on the rise. Overall we are seeing that people are drinking less, trading up and drinking better products, so Riflemans clearly fits the bill."
Sigley has yet to decide when and where Riflemans will feature on Nourish Group's wine lists and says he will take advice from Bish on when the wine will be at its best.
Consumers wanting to get their hands on Riflemans Chardonnay 2013, after it is released in August 2014, will need to keep an eye on the shelves of their fine wine retailers (some of which have secured stock through the en primeur offer) or on the wine lists of selected restaurants.
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