New Zealand wine: Red, White and Rosy

18 September, 2015

Here, the move to regionality, and then to sub-regionality, seems to be working. As the vineyards have gained in age, an extra dimension has been added to New Zealand Pinot. The potential clouds in the sky, however, are the fact that Pinot is expensive to produce (because of low yields and the need for oak cooperage), thus impacting profitability, and leaf roll virus and phylloxera are threats to some of the older plantings.


A look at the latest export figures is interesting. For the first time the US has overtaken Australia as the largest market for New Zealand Wine. There are three large export markets of roughly equal size: the US, Australia and the UK. The US and UK are showing dou- ble-digit growth, while Australia is con- tracting slightly. Then, some distance behind, is Canada, which is roughly double the size of the next market, The Netherlands, but both are growing strongly. China is in sixth place and growing. Overall exports are worth NZ$1.42bn, up 7% on last year.

“NZ wines continue to experience strong sales growth in key export markets,” says Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.

“Particularly pleasing is the performance in North America and the strong result from the UK. Growth into the US now means that market has become our largest export market by value, edging past Australia for the first time.”

Asia is seen as a key target for future (more profitable) growth. “New Zealand wine sales to China increased in both volume and value in the 12 months to December 2014,” says Natalie Potts, New Zealand Winegrowers’ market- ing manager for Asia. “Exports grew by 11% in volume and 34% in value to NZ$27m. This makes China the largest market in the Asia region, where total sales increased to NZ$93m.”

Potts adds: “China’s imports of New Zealand wine focus on reds, which make up approximately 60% of the total volume. Pinot Noir leads, closely followed by Cabernet blends and Merlot. Despite the dominance of red wines, the largest single grape variety by volume exported to China is Sauvignon Blanc, alone making up more than a quarter of exports.”

In contrast, Hong Kong seems to be a more mature and typical market for New Zealand wine, with whites making up 80% of exports. “Of these, Sauvignon Blanc is the clear leader, while Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are increasing their share,” says Potts. “Red wines are also growing their share, with increased imports of Syrah and Merlot.”


The weather gods have been relatively kind to New Zealand in recent years. 2012 was a short vintage, 2013 a good quality one with reasonable volumes, and 2014 the big vintage needed to keep the growing markets supplied, although the grapes picked last in Marlborough were rain affected. The big news is that everyone is very excited about 2015, which had healthy yields and excellent quality.

“We are looking forward to the release of the 2015 vintage Sauvignon Blancs later this year,” says Brancott’s Materman. “2014 was notable for its high yields and a significant weather event at the end of vintage, which compromised what was otherwise very good quality fruit. 2015, on the other hand, was exceptional. A perfect growing season from start to finish has given us, in my opinion, some of the best wines ever delivered by Marlborough.”

Keywords: new zealand wine


Philip Duff

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