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New Zealand wine exports hit NZ$2 billion

New Zealand’s wine exports have doubled in value over a decade, with sales from October 2019 to October 2020 totalling a record-breaking NZ$2 billion, writes Liz Lowe.

New Zealand Winegrowers reported the figures, which, despite recessions and a global pandemic, met its 2010 forecasts.

“After the industry withstood the 2020 harvest during Level 4 lockdown, we were planning for a worst-case scenario. But instead, while the world has changed in 2020, what has not changed is people’s love for New Zealand wine,” said Clive Jones, chair of New Zealand Winegrowers.

“Obviously to continue growth at this time is a very encouraging sign,” added Nigel Greening, owner of Felton Road. “As always, we look as a wine-producing nation to focus on quality and to achieve growth in value as well as volume.”

Wine is New Zealand’s sixth largest export good and shipped to more than 100 countries, with the US, UK and Australia being key growth markets.

The latest figures show sales to the UK increased by 11% on the previous year, totalling more than NZ$460m. New Zealand exports nearly six times the volume of wine than is sold domestically.

A premium image helped cement the international reputation of New Zealand’s wine and it remains either the highest or second highest priced wine category in the US, UK, Canada, and China.

On the significance of reaching the $2 billion exports milestone, Rosie Finn, sales and marketing director of Neudorf Vineyards, said: “To be honest, the figure itself isn’t the achievement, it’s the quality of the wine that is fuelling the demand for NZ wine in the UK.”

Matt Thomson, winemaker and co-founder of Blank Canvas, attributes the secret of New Zealand wines’ success to “fruit intensity, sense of place and relative consistency of style.”

The country’s flagship wine is, of course, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It remains by far the most-planted grape, providing more than ten times the tonnage of the second most popular varietal, Pinot Noir.

As a region, Marlborough also continues to dominate in terms of volume of growers, wineries and tonnage produced.

September 2019 marked the 200th anniversary of the first grape vines planted in New Zealand and as this relatively young industry continues to evolve it will face new challenges, such as increasing costs of production, a potential labour shortage and the need for sustainable growth.

“The biggest challenge would have to be the drive for organic, sustainable, authentic wines from vineyards and viticulturalists who care for their soil with an eye for the generations to come,” said Rosie Finn.

Highlighting regional identities is also likely to be a focus. “We need to get better at communicating diversity of style by sub-region,” said Matt Thomson. “I’d love to see UK sommeliers listing wines chosen to showcase the different sub-regions and us giving them the tools to explain why.”

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