NZ wine exports hit record high driven by strong US sales

The beer and wine aisle of a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store is pictured ahead of its opening day in Los Angeles. New Zealand sauvignon blanc has found a ready market in the US.
The beer and wine aisle of a 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery store is pictured ahead of its opening day in Los Angeles. New Zealand sauvignon blanc has found a ready market in the US.

New Zealand’s wine export values continue to rise thanks to strong United States demand, reaching $1.66 billion for the year, up 6 per cent on the year before.

While the percentage increase is lower than the average yearly growth of 17 per cent for the last 20 years, the industry was still on track to reach $2b worth of exports by 2020, chairman of New Zealand Winegrowers Steve Green said.

The latest NZ Winegrowers annual report shows to the end of June this year, the US market is worth $517 million, up 12 per cent. New Zealand wine became the third most valuable wine import into the US, behind only France and Italy.

NZ wine, a 2017 snapshot.
NZ wine, a 2017 snapshot.

Green forecast next year’s export volumes would be “more muted” because of the smaller harvest of 396,000 tonnes, down 9 per cent on 2016, but wineries were confident quality would remain high.

While the US provided the best returns, more litres of wine (74 million) were exported to the United Kingdom for a much smaller return of $389m. Traditionally more bulk wine has been sent into the UK market. Behind the US and the UK came Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and China.

Former US ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, along with many of his countrymen, has a nose for a good wine. He attended a tasting of New Zealand and French pinot noir last year.
Former US ambassador to New Zealand Mark Gilbert, along with many of his countrymen, has a nose for a good wine. He attended a tasting of New Zealand and French pinot noir last year.

The most exported variety was sauvignon blanc, followed by pinot noir and chardonnay.

The recently passed Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act would offer improved protection of New Zealand’s regional identities. The industry had also launched the sustainable winegrowing New Zealand continuous improvement extension programme to enhance the reputation of wines.

Of a total growing area of 37,129 hectares, sauvignon dominates at 22,085 ha, an increase of 685 ha from the year before. The second most popular variety was pinot noir, with 5653 ha, followed by chardonnay at 3203 ha and pinot gris (2469 ha).

Marlborough is overwhelmingly the largest region with 25,135 ha planted in vines, followed by Hawke’s Bay (4694 ha), Central Otago (1896 ha) and Canterbury/Waipara (1425 ha).

The number of wineries was 677; they reached a peak of 703 in 2012.

New Zealanders drank 40 million litres of imported wine during the past year, most of it Australian (29m litres), with the next two most popular French and Chilean.

The November Kaikoura earthquake damaged an estimated 20 per cent of Marlborough’s tank capacity, but by harvest time all of the lost capacity had been restored or replaced.

Green said the industry consulted with members on possible changes to export tasting requirements, with responses suggesting a rethink of export requirements was needed.

“We continue to believe more needs to be done in our export legislation to ensure that the same standards apply to every bottle of New Zealand wine, no matter where it is bottled,” Green said.

NZ Winegrowers were concerned at the Ministry for Primary Industries’ plan to take part of New Zealand Winegrowers’ wine export certification service contract in-house.

“We fought hard to retain the status quo, which has served our members well, and are disappointed with the level of industry consultation in MPI’s decision making process. If the service changes, we will be seeking guarantees from the government that the current speedy issuance of export eligibility statements will be protected, at no additional cost to members,” Green said.

In June the New Zealand Grape Growers Council and the Wine Institute of New Zealand finished as entities, replaced by a unified New Zealand Winegrowers.

New Zealand is now the only major wine producing nation with a single industry body, representing and advocating for the interests of its entire grape and wine industry.

The industry and the Government are working through a Primary Growth Partnership on research into lighter wine production and marketing. Last year retail sales reached $33.5m. The programme runs through to 2021, by which time $16.97m would have been spent on the partnership.

Organic wine production continues to flourish with more than 60 New Zealand wineries now making fully certified organic wines, and more still in the organic conversion process.

Wine is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export.

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Looking back on 2016

As ever, I find this a time to reflect on what the year has offered. We had a great day for the BBQ in January. Always a pleasant afternoon for those attending. February saw a tasting with Roberta Montero presenting for the Artisan Winegrowers of Central Otago. An interesting and somewhat different approach to winemaking from this group. March was a very successful tasting of Argentinian wines presented by Josefina Telleria from South2South. In April we had Edward Donaldson presenting for Pegasus Bay. The AGM in May passed quickly and members enjoyed some wines from the Club’s cellar before we moved on to June where Foxes Island and  held centre stage. This was a very professional presentation.

Things really got rolling in July with the mid-year dinner at Logan Brown. Some issues around service but otherwise an excellent evening. August was time for Keith Tibble to present an Australian evening, mainly Elderton from the Barossa Valley but included offerings from McLaren Vale and Clare Valley. September was with Gavin Yortt and Squawking Magpie from Hawkes Bay. October was a highlight with Jane Hunter presenting from Marlborough. It was great to get an icon of the NZ wine industry for this event. November completed a somewhat international year with Cangrande doing Italian wines for our festive tasting. Dinner at Muse this month completes our year.

Your committee have been very pleased with the programme and hope everyone found something to enjoy. Have a great Christmas and then we will look to developing 2017 events to match those of the past year.

Cheers
Robin Semmens, Editor

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Artisan Winegrowers of Central Otago – Feb 2016

Ellero

George Town Vineyard

Lindis River

Lowburn Ferry

Maori Point

TOSQ

This tasting introduced Roberta Manell Montero from Ellero, one of the six wineries that make up the grouping, the Artisan Winegrowers of Central Otago.

There were some technical problems and we felt that there were several learnings from this tasting:

  • We need a more powerful projector for future PowerPoint presentations
  • We need to go to a hands-free headset microphone
  • May need to consider the heat in the hall for summer meetings as opening doors increase the ambient noise level, making the sound system even more important.

Whilst these issues did unsettle Roberta a little, it did have the benefit of getting her more involved with the audience which wasn’t a bad thing. The tastings of the Artisan wines was certainly very interesting but sadly their higher than expected costs to members meant that there were minimal orders from attendees. This was a shame.

When members have had time to reflect they can find the wines at Centre City Wines in Wellington or online at www.otagowines.com.

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From Central Otago to Argentina

Next meeting

2016-02-4-56b3ba6b22565We are moving from Central Otago all the way to Argentina for our next meeting. This will be an interesting tasting and we hope you will give the evening your support.

Wine awards

Members may remember that in March 2013 we had a presentation including Lansdowne Estate in Masterton. Please have a look at the “In the News” item. Lansdowne continues to receive international accolades for their wines and the opening of a bottle produced from the same land in 1903 has further enhanced their reputation.

Also noted that Lowburn Ferry, featured in the Artisan collection last month, have won an award for their Pinot Noir in Sydney. The industry continues to shine internationally.

Cheers
Robin Semmens, Editor

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Six New Zealand Chardonnays you should be drinking now – In The News

Daniel Honantheguardian, Thursday 28 May 2015

theguardian-chardonnay
Head to cellar doors to taste some of these great New Zealand chardonnays. Photograph: Alamy

Fictional chardonnay swillers, Bridget Jones, and Kath and Kim have a lot to answer for when it comes to one of the world’s noblest grapes, and why, for the past 10 years or so, many of us have stopped drinking it. Not only has it become uncool to drink chardonnay but the product itself has suffered due to the deluge of cheaply produced, homogenised and heavily oak-chipped versions of this most versatile Vinifera. The 1980s and 90s were awash with over-the-top, tropically scented, fat, blousy and nearly chewable renderings of the grape that Australian winemakers went on to conquer the world with.

Back in its hometown of Chablis, France, chardonnay has been revered for more than 500 years. Depending on where and how it’s grown, the grape’s versatility is unquestionable. Great examples can swing from lean, steeled, cold stream refreshment, to sweet late harvest wines of heady line and length, stopping at all stations, good, bad, and ugly, as it goes. Nowadays, a zippy glass of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, is more popular with your average drinker than a glass of heavy, creamy, chardonnay. In fact, sav blanc accounts for 72% of the total wine produced by New Zealanders, with Aussies being the largest export market.

You could argue that if scenes from Kath and Kim were being written today, these reflective characters would, more than likely, be pouring themselves a glass of Sauvy Bee, instead of “Kar-don-ay”. But chardonnay is timeless, and its ability to match effortlessly with food means phrases like, “ABC; Anything But Chardonnay”, is something you will rarely ever hear spoken, by those in the know.

I love New Zealand chardonnay. In the warmer, sunnier climes of the north, in places such as Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, and Nelson (top of the South Island), chardonnay is scented with fresh tropical fruits and rounded textures, similar to the rolling hills that bound along the horizon. The further south you go, the cooler it gets, and chardonnay grown in the Marlborough, Waipara, and Central Otago regions, here, express their revitalising, snow peaked landscapes, as New Zealand’s alpine country pushes further up, into the sky.

white-wine-011
Chardonnay – worth giving up your sauv blanc for. Photograph: Corbis

After a recent visit, here are my top picks of New Zealand chardonnay.

2013, Crazy By Nature Shotberry Chardonnay, Millton Vineyards, Gisborne, Certified Organic, 13%, $22

James and Annie Millton have been biodynamic before it was cool. Second tier, but by no means second rate, the Shotberry chardonnay is like a safe option gateway drug into the wonderful world of northern New Zealand chardy. A blend from two distinct estate owned sites, Riverpoint and Opou, this wine is like drinking Gisborne in a glass. Ripe yellow fruits and florals, cooled by ocean spray, ripple above a barely noticeable raft of oak, which seems only there for textual protection, rather than full-blown armament.

2013, Bilancia Chardonnay, Bilancia, Hawke’s Bay, 13%, $29

Winegrowers, Lorraine Leheny and Warren Gibson are all about balance. There are six letters in both of their last names, they are both Libran, and their wines taste as if Lady Justice had made them herself, hence the name; ‘”bi’lancia” (be-larn-cha), meaning balance, harmony and equilibrium in Italian. If their La Collina syrah is the rapture, then this chardonnay is like some kind of intense party beforehand. The smell of gunsmoke and soft white flowers mingle with the air inside the glass, carrying with it pear skin, white stone fruit and salted honey aromas, while flavours of crisp green apple, buttery shortbread, like baked apple pie with slices of white peach glazed on top, provide the formula for flavour in this divine example of chardonnay from Hawke’s Bay.

2013, Hope Vineyard Chardonnay, Greenhough, Nelson, Certified Organic, 13.7%, $35

Andrew Greenhough is a man with a masters in art history, who gave up his ambitions of being an art gallery curator – a career which would have seen him showcasing other people’s artistic creations – and instead moved to Nelson with his wife Jenny, where they purchased a vineyard, in a place called Hope. There they set out to grow and create their very own works of art. This wine showcases the real strength of this region’s potential for making great chardy, à la the revered clays hills of the Moutere. Breathe deep, the golden sunlit liquid that possesses fleshy aromas of yellow nectarine, salted buttered popcorn, and green pineapple core. Luscious, not lean, curvaceous, never flabby. This wine is not distributed in Australia, and I have no idea why, but if you are travelling in the region it’s worth stocking up on.

2014, Chardonnay, Te Whare Ra (TWR), Marlborough, Certified Organic, 13.2%, $38

Anna and Jason Flowerday take winegrowing very seriously. After all, their livelihood depends on it. That’s why all their wines have a certain laser-guided precision about them, which is not to say that they lack soul, but rather, drinking a TWR white wine is like listening to a high-fidelity live performance of Daft Punk, circa 2007.

Last year was an outstanding year for the Flowerday’s, and it shows in this vitally brilliant single estate wine. Imagine, butter melting on hot river stones while cool glacial waters that smell like white linen flowers, citrus, crunchy nectarine and other stone fruits rush over them at pace, cleansing and cooling the stones, and leaving behind fine mineral traces of residual adrenaline and joy … well, that would be an understatement.

2014, Home Chardonnay, Black Estate, Waipara , 12.5%, $45

Located in North Canterbury, on New Zealand’s South Island, Waipara valley is home to a number of premium winegrowing estates, including Black Estate, where they grow chardonnay from 21-year-old vines that were last irrigated in 1998. Winegrower, Nick Brown’s meticulous attention to detail has resulted in a wine that is all torque, which is backed up with precise lines and sleek curves. In another life, Nick may have been an Italian carmaker.

Full secondary ferment provides a textual grip that seems to have done nothing to squash the racy acids this wine drives along on. Gunsmoked cheddar, lemon spritz and coconut shavings provide the perfect hook to open wide and drink deep all the angular richness of mango skins, lace, and green pineapple core that’s held inside the glass.

2013, Block 2 Chardonnay, Felton Road, Central Otago, Certified Organic, 14%, $45

The Central Otago landscape was carved from hyperbole. The mountains, the ranges, the rivers and lakes, the snow, the dirt, and the green, then gold, then red leafed vines. From sunrise to sunset, Central Otago is proof that God is a wine drinker.

Felton Road might just be the most unimaginative name for a wine label, and yet they make some of the most captivating wines in the country. The Block 3 chardonnay is deeply golden in colour and smells like frozen tropical fruits; crisp melon, fleshy pineapple, mango skins – then, soft lime, nuts and spiced honey. Upon each element sits tiny frozen flakes of ice, providing razored tension. Like sails unfurling in the wind, this wine is supple, nimble, and graceful as it goes in a round, around your mouth, down past your heart to, at last, rest in your belly and shine sunlight on your soul.

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Looking Forward – March 2015 – Auburn Wines

This will be a Summer Wine Tasting. Auburn have a special passion for Riesling and indeed are the only winery in New Zealand that produces only Riesling Wines. Their strapline is “We grow Riesling. We craft Riesling. We love Riesling. A lot.”

They say that, in Central Otago, there is a special dynamism – a tangible synergy – between Riesling and this place. The schist rock, the hot days, the cool nights, the arid climate, the mountain and valley landscape. And no other grape variety has the ability to express site so authentically and candidly. The small satellite sub-regions of Central Otago tell us, very plainly and very simply, who they are through the medium of Riesling.

They produce wines from a number of vineyards and have some differing vintages. This will be a interesting opportunity to look at a single variety from different sources.

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Winestate Wine of the Year – Akarua Pinot Noir 2012

And guess what, they’ll be here in June 2015.

Well known Central Otago Winery, Akarua is celebrating after having their 2012 Akarua Pinot Noir selected as Australasian Pinot Noir of the Year by Winestate magazine at a lunch held in Queenstown this afternoon (November 21).

Akarua winery, located in the outstanding Bannockburn sub-region, picked up the coveted Wine of the Year Pinot Noir trophy at the award presentation, recognising its 2012 vintage as the best in a field of over 1000 pinot noirs from Australia and New Zealand.

Winestate, a bi-monthly magazine is Australia’s oldest wine publication which was started in 1978.

The competition, run by Winestate magazine, has become one of the most comprehensive assessments of wine varietals in Australia.

Akarua winemaker Matt Connell said it was “fantastic” for Akarua to gain further recognition for the already well-awarded 2012 vintage.

“It has been a great year for us and this award is significant in that it confirms that this wine can stand out amongst the best in its class from Australia and New Zealand which we are thrilled about. This wine has been consistent from the day we released it, with seven gold medals awarded to this wine to date”.

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Appellation Central Wine Tours, Queenstown

Appellation Central Wine Tours have been organising group and daily “Free Independent Traveller” wine tours to the vineyards of Central Otago for the past 14 years.
Appellation Central Wine Tours pride themselves in truly doing the best by our clients. Their aim is that clients come away from tours just that little bit more addicted to “Central Otago”, its wines, food and people!

The attached presentation provides a snapshot of our product and services from the perspective of Wine Clubs/Societies.

If you are booking a trip to Queenstown in the future this may be something that you might contemplate, and Appellation Central Wine Tours would be delighted to assist you.  Contacted them on their website for bookings, help with queries or to provide information.

Tasting our superb world-renowned Pinots amongst the spectacular Central Otago vistas is a wine experience, we feel, second to none …

From the Editor: Feb 2014

2014 – And before you know where you are, it’s February. Your committee would like to wish all members, and others with an association to the Cellar Club, all the best in health and happiness for 2014.

If you thought 2013 was a great year then we are sure you are going to enjoy 2014. We have worked hard to get a cross section of tastings and events to please our members. We are starting the year with Wrights from Gisborne, with the promise of an intriguing evening from a recognised organic producer, who is also dabbling with low and no alcohol wines. Makes for an interesting conversation topic, is it a wine or just a fruit juice. Come along and discuss.

Other offerings for the year are planned to include Alpha Domus (Hawkes Bay), Penfolds Bin Releases (Barossa), Wooing Tree (Central Otago), Moana Park (Hawkes Bay), Milton Estate (Gisborne), Rod McDonald Wines (HB again), and hopefully one from Martinborough later in the year. Working on the usual Festives Wines and two dinners as well.

So a full and interesting year in prospect and we trust you will fully enjoy the tastings and activities arranged.

Cheers
Robin Semmens, Editor