Hawke’s Bay driving Asian thirst for NZ wine

3rd December, 2012 by Lucy Shaw

Cabernet and Merlot from Hawke’s Bay is fuelling Chinese consumers’ thirst for New Zealand wine, with China expected to overtake the UK as NZ’s biggest market for Cabernet-Merlot next year.

Craggy Range vineyards in Gimblett Gravels

According to Gimblett Gravels wine growing district chairman Tony Bish, by 2014, one in every two bottles of New Zealand Cabernet-Merlot is likely to be exported to China.

Driving the growth trend are Bordeaux-style red blends from Gimblett Gravels.

Hawke’s Bay produces around 85% of New Zealand’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, making the region ripe for success in Asia.

“There’s a lot of optimism that there’s significant potential for medium and high-priced wines in China,” Bish told New Zealand national broadcaster TVNZ.

While a lot of Gimblett Gravels’ production is currently going into under NZ$20 wine, the region has proved its quality internationally and has a fantastic brand building opportunity in China at the premium end.

“There is an opportunity to trade up – 80% of what we’re producing should go out at premium price points,” Bish revealed.

Babich Wines’ top red blend, The Patriarch 2010, has sold out due to Asian demand

China’s thirst for Hawke’s Bay reds has led Babich Wines to sell out of the latest vintage of its top wine, The Patriarch, a single vineyard Cabernet-Merlot blend from Gimblett Gravels, with China moving from the 20th largest export market three years ago to Babich’s third largest.

“A fire has been lit under China with regards to supply of New Zealand wine,” Babich Wines general manager David Babich told TVNZ.

To keep up with demand, Babich has expanded its red grape plantings in Hawke’s Bay, snapping up another small vineyard in the region.

Cabernet-Merlot exports to China passed the one million-litre mark for the first time in 2012, up 50% on 2011.

Of New Zealand’s NZ$25 million in wine exports to China in the year to June, Cabernet-Merlot accounted for $10m.

Keen to capitalise on the trend, Villa Maria recently bought 100 hectares of vineyard land in Gimblett Gravels.

The company has been exporting Sauvignon Blanc to China for 12 years.

“The Chinese like to buy quality and like to buy brands.

“There’s an opportunity for Gimblett Gravels if it can create a strong brand for itself as the best of what New Zealand offers,” Villa Maria’s Asia market manager Charlotte Read said.

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