Variety is not the spice of life at Air New Zealand

January 21st 2015

Angry New Zealand vintners dumped tens of tonnes of rotting grapes at the entrance of Air New Zealand’s Auckland headquarters today* after the national carrier announced it would be serving just one supplier’s wine on its flights, leaving nearly 700 other wineries wondering what the hell they’d done wrong.

While the airline champions its “ long-standing commitment to the New Zealand wine industry and their real passion for New Zealand wine” as sponsor of the country’s main wine show, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, the words ring hollow since it decided to stock one supplier of wine – Villa Maria – for its economy and premium economy classes, and its lounges.

Previously, Air New Zealand invited all New Zealand wineries to submit their wines for in-flight selection twice a year – but apparently that was too “costly”, it told producers in an email last year. Now, there’ll be little choice for passengers: you can drink Villa Maria, Villa Maria or Villa Maria. So much for “real passion”.

It’s a blow for the industry with the airline claiming to be “largest single server of New Zealand wines” pouring around 6.5 million glasses of wine each year.

New Zealand Winegrowers’ chairman, Steve Green told, “From our membership’s point of view we see it as hardly constructive to helping the wine industry.

“It means that the variety of wines being offered will be curtailed.”

If you’re not in cattle class, then you might be able to have a little more choice. The airline’s spokeswoman pointed out that there will be “two dozen separate wine suppliers in our business class cabins over the coming year.” Great, if you have $10,000 to spare for a return flight to London.

So, New Zealand wineries and Air NZ passengers of the future, are you peeved? We should be. What can we do about it?

Dump rotten grapes at their HQ in the style of militant Languedoc winemakers CRAV? Start a Facebook petition (I am happy to get this going, if there’s enough support via comments on this page)? Boycott the Air New Zealand Wine awards in 2015 en masse to voice your displeasure?

At the very least, to ensure transparency and the future credibility of the Awards, Villa Maria and its associated brands should not enter the competition. While the wines are all tasted blind and Air New Zealand has stressed it has no involvement in the judging process, if a Villa Maria-made wine won the Air New Zealand Champion Wine of Show in 2015, as it did in 2014, what would producers and consumers think?

*Fictitious opening line – no grapes have been dumped at the Air NZ HQ…yet…

**Image courtesy of Wikimedia/Charaka Ranasinghe

Posted in - awards & blogging & New Zealand & Uncategorized & wine on January 21st 2015 0 Comments

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