New Zealand wine: Red, White and Rosy

18 September, 2015

Nick Picone, group chief winemaker at Villa Maria, agrees: “Vintage 2015 will be remembered as exceptional, in no small part due to a great summer and modest crop levels.

“Wine quality has proven to be very good across all varieties and our winemakers are very pleased with the wines they have in tank for blending. Sauvignon Blanc blending is now complete and the line-up of wines is one of the strongest ever for varietal characteristics and intensity.”


Now that New Zealand’s wine regions are finishing their expansion phase, the big challenge for the major companies is going to be staying profitable. Increased demand is going to have the knock-on effect of raising grape prices and, although key export markets are in a healthy shape, the UK in particular is price sensitive and sales will take a hit if prices suddenly rise. “The key variable going forward is rising grape prices,” says Richard Thomas, CEO of Villa Maria Group.

“These are driven by continued demand for high-quality New Zealand wine and overall land shortages. Villa Maria’s quality positioning enables us to command an overall premium price in the wine market, which enables us to manage grape price increases in line with our premium positioning.

“But the ongoing upward pressure of grape prices is likely to drive overall industry price appreciation in the near and long term.”

He adds: “That said, there is a side benefit of this price appreciation in the pressure it creates on lower-cost/low- quality production, which otherwise risks devaluing the New Zealand wine positioning globally.”

So, in a perfect world New Zealand will be able to raise prices and still sell all the wine it has, if it is able to innovate successfully and give consumers a compelling reason to trade up from inexpensive private-label Sauvignon.

As Materman has already said, one of the forms of innovation that can lead to higher prices is the development of new styles of Sauvignon, vinified in oak with a view to developing over time in bottle, rather than relying on the short-lived aromatic hit that has made Marlborough Sauvignon so popular.

Leading examples of this type include Cloudy Bay’s Te Koku, Dog Point’s Section 94 and Brancott’s

Chosen Rows. For the industry as a whole, a shift away from private-label wines towards a higher proportion of branded product can help.

And there’s also the ongoing research project funded by the industry to look at naturally lighter, lower-alcohol wines. This is something Villa Maria has had success with.

“At Villa Maria we continue to lead the way in exploring new styles for consumers,” says Thomas, “with good growth in our lower-alcohol (9.5%) range, Villa Maria Lighter, providing consumers who are looking for something a little lighter with a great tasting wine.”

In February 2016, New Zealand Winegrowers will be hosting the first Sauvignon Blanc celebration, a conference that will attract key media and trade from around the globe to focus on this variety.

New Zealand has already hosted Pinot Noir conferences (the last two in 2010 and 2013, the next in 2017), but this is the first time it is showcasing its most important variety. It’s a wise move, because future growth for New Zealand is likely to revolve around raising the image and profile of Sauvignon Blanc.

Keywords: new zealand wine


Philip Duff

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