You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Friday 3 July 2015

NZ producer embarks on fresh approach

15th May, 2013 by Gabriel Stone

Waiheke Island producer Cable Bay Vineyards is keen to highlight New Zealand’s strengths beyond Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir as it relaunches in the UK with a new distributor.

Cable Bay winemaker Neill Culley

Cable Bay winemaker Neill Culley

Formerly represented by Stratfords Wine Agencies, which went into administration last year, Cable Bay itself has only recently emerged from a management buy-out after what founding winemaker Neill Culley described as “a lot of debt and dysfunction.”

The company is now owned jointly by Culley, who planted Cable Bay’s first vineyards in 1998, and Loukas Petrou, who heads a New Zealand construction firm.

Having just become the first New Zealand producer in the portfolio of UK importer Connoisseur Estates, Culley highlighted a strategic shift from Cable Bay’s time with Stratfords. “We’re looking for more premium business,” he told the drinks business, adding: “The next year is about finding good distributors to work with and growing in a controlled fashion.”

With eight different wines available in the UK, ranging from Chardonnay, to Syrah, a Merlot/Malbec blend, Pinot Grigio and Viognier, all from Waiheke Island, the company also sources Central Otago Pinot Noir and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Although around 25% of the company’s production is from the small viticultural area of Waiheke Island, Culley suggested: “In five years time that’ll probably be 5%.”

In particular he explained: “I think it would be very hard to have a sustainable export business without Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir,” as he outlined a plan to buy vineyards in both Central Otago and Marlborough during the next year.

Despite acknowledging that “nothing is going to compare in terms of volume” to these two varieties, Culley expressed particular pride in his Waiheke Island Syrah and Chardonnay, as well as highlighting the successful results this region can achieve with Malbec, of which he is currently planting more.

“You’ve got to get it ripe enough,” he explained of the latter variety. “It can be a bit one dimensional, but get it ripe and it gets really floral with some weight but a real lightness on the palate too.”

For all this success with Malbec, Culley admitted that his view of Waiheke Island’s strongest suit has changed in recent years. “If you’d asked me 10 years ago, I’d have said Bordeaux blends, but today Syrah is showing well across a broad range of producers,” he remarked.

Comparing Waiheke Island conditions with New Zealand’s main Syrah stronghold of Hawke’s Bay, Culley explained: “We’re an island so you have the sea breezes but it’s relatively dry with clay soils and most of our vineyards are on slopes. Hawke’s Bay probably has a greater diversity of soil types but it’s fair to say they’re both warmer regions of New Zealand.”

Despite his pride in these red varieties, Culley acknowledged the commercial incentive for New Zealand producers to focus on Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to the grape’s strong consumer following, he noted: “We can crop Sauvignon Blanc at a reasonable yield, depending on the vineyard 12 or 13 tonnes per hectare; Syrah is no more than 5 tonnes per hectare.”

Nevertheless, Culley expressed optimism that the UK is becoming more open-minded to expanding its New Zealand wine repertoire. Recalling his first visit to the UK two decades ago, he said: “there certainly seems much more acceptance now that New Zealand is not just Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.”

While the UK, US and Australia remain an important focus for Cable Bay, whose production Culley aims to “grow back up to at least 50,000 cases,” he welcomed the impact of emerging markets.

“The biggest change for me in the last 10 years is the opportunity in new markets,” he told db. “There was a time when if you didn’t sell in the UK, Australia or maybe the US then that was it. Now there are other choices, which probably stops people selling wine at lower prices and screwing the market up.”

Connoisseur Estates will be exhibiting at next week’s London International Wine Fair on Stand J1.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Fire devastates New Zealand winery

A fire has ripped through a New Zealand winery destroying its offices, kitchen more...

Constellation to buy Meiomi for $315m

Constellation Brands is to buy Napa-based wine brand Meiomi for $315 million, more...

Top 10 wines in the US press

A Texan Albariño, NY Riesling and Californian Syrah are among the wine tips more...

International Business Development Assistant

London, United Kingdom

To be determined, based on the profile and experience of the candidate

Santa Rita launching new Irish campaign

Chilean wine producer Santa Rita Estates is spending €500,000 on a new more...

Top 10 wines in the UK press

An "epic" Riesling, a "Grecian beauty" that "gobsmacks with opulent tropical more...

Austrian wine importer launches in Hong Kong

A wine importer specialising in Austrian wines has launched in Hong Kong to more...

Hatch Mansfield – Brand Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary

Copa América: Malbec vs Carmenère

Saturday sees Chile and Argentina go head-to-head in football’s Copa América more...

Vinadeis unveils Languedoc 'black diamonds'

One of France’s largest wine producers has launched a high-end Languedoc more...

Mumm releases vintage collection

Champagne Mumm has released a new “Collection du Chef de Caves”, featuring more...

Marketing and eCommerce Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive, includes equity options

MMD bolsters Italian portfolio with Mazzei

Maisons Marques et Domaines has extended its Italian portfolio with the more...

Vinexpo: five days 'too much' says organiser

Vinexpo doesn’t need to run for the full five days because no visitor stays more...

Rise for Haut Bailly in Liv-ex 2015 classification

Liv-ex’s bi-annual “re-classification” of Bordeaux saw Haut Bailly leap more...

Digital and Communications Executive

£22,000-£26,000 dependent on experience

Oregon producer takes international view

One of Oregon’s youngest wine estates has partnered with Jackson Family Wines more...

The Proust Q&A: Lorenzo Zonin

Italian winemaker Lorenzo Zonin opens up to db about cooking naked, more...

Yealands sells majority stake

Yealands Family Wines' owner Peter Yealand has agreed to sell 80% of the more...

PR Manager

Competitive

UK vineyards included in tax relief scheme

Winemakers in the UK will be able to benefit from income tax changes for the more...

Bordeaux 2005: 12 ‘perfect’ wines

Twelve wines have been given “perfect” 100-point ratings in Robert more...

Mumm releases Santana sparkler

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has teamed up with Mumm Napa to release a more...

Social Media Editor

Competitive

Top 10 wines in the UK press

An English fizz fit for Wimbledon, a "chunky, berry-stuffed" Negroamaro and a more...

Wine thieves go on trial

A gang of wine thieves accused of stealing a million euros worth of wine from more...