Dumping Aussie fruit in an iconic Marlborough brand is like our cash-strapped Olympic team taking on some failed Aussie athletes to not only make up the numbers but to hold the flag for us as well.

But that’s sort of what’s happening.

Pernod Ricard – the French owner of the Montana brand – has decided to exchange Marlborough Savvy and Pinot fruit for cheaper Aussie lookalikes. Only in their cheaper under $10 brands they say.

Fair enough. But why use Montana, a brand identified with the development of both NZ Sauvignon Blanc and Marlborough, to launch a new drive to ever cheaper wines?

Show some respect! Pernod have huge experience in marketing new brands. Launching  a new one would be a doddle. ‘TuiGalah Estate’ anyone?

If we are to believe the hype, Facebook and the Twittersphere are pulsing with indignation and strangely, since Pernod’s announcement I’ve seen few of the wines anywhere. Are consumers as outraged, as indeed they should be, and voting with their Paywave?

Judging by the reactions this side of the ditch Pernod may have shot themselves in the foot.

In which case hold off on the tourniquet for a while until common sense returns.

But a lot of the discussion misses the point.

To be sure the idea of ‘dumping’ Marlborough fruit for that from Aussie’s Riverland seems bizarre. But it’s not really remarkable. Ask the French about importation of cheap Spanish wine in their bottom tier wines.

Homogenisation is everywhere. The ‘British’ cars we drive have parts sourced from Mexico or perhaps Brazil.  Those ‘Italian’ branded stiletto shoes are made and even designed in Vietnam or China.

So let’s not get too precious about the blending process.

If Pernod Ricard really find it impossible to make acceptable wine from NZ fruit for under the $10 mark and this is their answer, the consumers will vote with their wallet, possibly across the whole Montana range and even, maybe, the associated Brancott wines. It’s their choice really.

BUT there are a couple of things that do need more consideration.

The first is the fact that the Montana brand really is iconic (I know it’s an overused word, but in this instance it fits). It was a pioneer of commercial winemaking in New Zealand and has (had?) a special relationship to Marlborough. The company was a major catalyst for both the NZ development of Sauvignon Blanc and the  region for which the country is now world famous. It deserves some respect whoever owns it!

Pernod Ricard have huge experience in brand creation. The establishment of another one for this venture would be easy. So why piggy back on a brand that has some heritage behind it?

Secondly, the ‘Wine of New Zealand’ declaration on our labels is obviously missing and the Aussie connection profiled on the back label, is in pretty small print.  Perhaps the hope was that few people peruse back labels so the origin would go unnoticed?

Already the Twitterati are talking revolution with some vowing never to buy Montana sub $10 wine again!

Gosh!

Will some consumers assume that the whole of the Montana range is open to a bit of Aussie influence thus leading maybe to a new interest in deciphering back labels of all Montana wines, not just the cheapies?  (Good luck with making sense of those exercises in obfuscation).

It’s a big risk. There is a good chance that the brand itself will now be damaged goods and Pernod Ricard might find the antipathy spreads.

So….

Leave the heritage brand with its integrity intact.

Front up to the blended venture on the face label, not the small print on the back!

‘Telling it like it is’ has always been a good Kiwi/attribute!