A wine world rarity

26 June, 2018

But seeing bulk shipments as entirely bad is too simplistic a reading of the situation. They are a vital part of the ecosystem in Marlborough. “I think it is all too easy for people to jump on the negative bandwagon when talking about bulk wine from Marlborough,” says a senior industry figure who didn’t want to be quoted, such is the touchiness around this issue. “The reality is, the ship has already sailed, and it did so some time ago. Within the next couple of years NZ will be exporting more wine in a bulk format versus bottled.” He points out that there are some good quality branded wines already shipped in bulk and bottled in market. And bulk shipping has financial and environmental benefits. He thinks the threat from cheaper, lower-quality wines is small. “There always has been and always will be wines made from rejected or over-cropped vines,” he says, “but as a percentage of the total volume produced the number will be very small.

“The demand is there and being driven by the global supermarket brands, so people will take opportunities including using over-cropped or poor-quality fruit. Should there be more emphasis on branded wines? Probably, but we don’t really get the choice to control that – we get told what they [the supermarkets] want and we do it.”

In Marlborough, the 2018 vintage is just beginning to come in, and so far it looks to be promising, despite more than average rainfall. The world’s appetite for Marlborough Sauvignon shows little sign of diminishing, and while there remain some tensions in the region between the large companies (just five or six will be making 80% of the wine) and the smaller, more boutique producers who’d like to see more emphasis on quality over quantity, this remains one of the wine world’s great success stories.

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