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Winegrowers stands by wine tasting investigation

Media release
December 5, 2006


New Zealand Winegrowers stands by investigation of wine tasting controversy


New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation representing grape growers and wine makers, has refuted claims it is dragging its chain in response to questions over the Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006 issue.

“Any suggestion that we have been blasé in our approach to the issue demonstrates a lack of understanding of our role and the disciplines we follow to ensure that we are acting in the best interests of our industry. We have taken this issue seriously from the outset,” said New Zealand Winegrowers chairman Stuart Smith.

“But we need to deal with the facts, not unsigned letters and industry innuendo.

“If there was any evidence that New Zealand wineries were deliberately producing special batches of wine to enter into wine competitions, we would employ the full powers of our board in sanctioning any member guilty of such practices.”

New Zealand Winegrowers has already undertaken one audit of Wither Hills’ winery records in relation to the batch variation in 2006 sauvignon blanc and specifically the batch BR315 from which the wine was submitted to Cuisine. That audit verified the explanation given by Wither Hills for the variation in the wine submitted to Cuisine and that available on sale elsewhere.

New Zealand Winegrowers commissioned a second audit to establish whether the batch variation was a one-off incident at Wither Hills or whether there has been a pattern of early season batch production in earlier vintages, as has been alleged.

New Zealand Winegrowers will be considering the findings of this second audit at its board meeting this Thursday (eds: December 7). It will also consider the Air New Zealand Wine Awards silver medal awarded to Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006.

“Once the board has given due consideration to these reports, I will be making our decision public as soon as possible. There is too much at stake here and based on independent advice we have received, it is important to resolve this matter in a considered and rational way.

“The last thing we want is for there to be any unnecessary and ongoing damage to the industry’s good reputation, both here and overseas.”

ENDS

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