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Small NZ harvest puts focus on value growth

New Zealand Winegrowers has reported an 18% smaller vintage than 2011, with the country setting its sights on increased value growth next year.

Grapes ripen in Central Otago

Although a cool Spring and Summer meant many producers experienced a smaller than predicted harvest, the anticipated total wine production of 194 million litres means that 2012 still represents the fourth largest harvest in New Zealand’s winemaking history. However, the figure fell well below the country’s current sales volumes of 240m litres.

Despite concerns that the grapes would struggle to ripen as a result of the cool conditions, Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, pointed to a critical turning point late in the growing season.

“Fortunately in most of our growing regions April saw excellent vintage conditions with many warm dry days and cool nights,” he reported. “The result is that we expect there will be plenty of vintage highlights for consumers to savour and enjoy, albeit in smaller volume than 2011.’”

Marlborough volumes were down in particular, as the country’s largest wine producing region saw a 23% decline on 2011.

Linked to this performance was the especially large decline in Sauvignon Blanc production, which represented 69% of the country’s total harvest and saw production fall by 19%, or 43,000 tonnes. Pinot Noir production fell by 25% and Chardonnay was down by 11%.

Not all regions experienced a smaller harvest this year, with Gisborne, Wairarapa, Canterbury and Otago all recording an increase on 2011.

Summing up the anticipated impact of this year’s harvest, Gregan remarked: “The 2012 vintage is very similar in size to 2010, but given sales growth in the past two years, the reduced crop will introduce a new tension to the sectors’ supply demand balance.

“As a result it is very clear focus in the next year will be on value rather than volume growth.”

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