Friday, October 31, 2008

Tinhorn Creek wines may not follow the price rise trend

Tinhorn Creek’s 2005 Oldfield’s Collection Merlot, just released at $28 a bottle, should be a $35 wine on the basis of its inherent quality.

There’s a good chance that the next vintage of this premium red will also sell for less than $35. Over the next few weeks, the management at Tinhorn will sit down to talk about wine pricing for next year’s releases, just as the economy shows signs of tanking.

“We wonder if this is the time to raise the price,” admits Sandra Oldfield, the general manager and the winemaker at Tinhorn Creek.

That is great news for consumers who have come to expect Tinhorn Creek to deliver value. Indeed, in Wine Access magazine’s recent International Wine Awards competition, the winery’s $18 “regular” 2005 Merlot was judged the best value Merlot.

If a market leader like Tinhorn Creek is thinking of holding prices, look for many of its peers to do the same. If that happens, VQA wine, now averaging about $18 a bottle, should plateau after rising from a $13 average a decade ago. That is not an unreasonable price, given the limited scale of production in the Okanagan compared with, say, the massive wineries in Chile
or Argentina.

By Okanagan standards, Tinhorn Creek is a large winery. Its annual production of about 40,000 cases gives it the financial resources to hold the price line during tough times. Perhaps the owners should have been more aggressive when pricing their Oldfield’s Collection or reserve wines when the opportunity was there a year or two ago. But they didn’t. The Tinhorn Creek fans are going to get relative bargains for a year or so at least.

The Oldfield’s Collection 2 Bench White 2007, the winery’s top white, is only $23 a bottle. This wine has a marvellous tropical fruit aroma, good mineral and fruit notes on the palate and a crisply dry finish. It is a blend of five white varieties: Sémillon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and a dash of Muscat. It is an outstanding food wine. 88

The Oldfield’s Collection Merlot 2005 ($28) is a dark red with attractive aromas of red fruit and vanilla that are preserved by the screw cap closure. This elegantly svelte wine has flavours of plums and blackberries. While the tannins are long and ripe, there is a structure here that suggests good aging potential as well. This wine, which has eight percent Cabernet

Franc and two percent Syrah, spent 16 months in new French and American oak and as long again aging in bottle before release. The winery produced 1,551 cases. 90

Tinhorn Creek also released two other reds in October. The 2006 Cabernet Franc ($18) – the winemaker once said this is her favourite red – has the bright fruit aromas and the vivacious flavours of spicy currants and blackberry that are typical of the variety. The wine has a firm texture but is drinking well already. Some 2,566 cases were released. 87

The 2006 Cabernet Merlot ($18) is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot. The varietals were aged separately in American oak before being blended and bottled last spring. The Cabernet Franc contributes aromas of red currants and mint. On the palate, the wine has a generous texture and an easy quaffability. The winery made 1,611 cases. 86

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