New Zealand recovers from earthquake and is set for average 2017 vintage

Despite suffering major earthquake damage in the country’s key wine producing regions of its South Island, New Zealand is on course for an average 2017 vintage, according to Phil Gregan, chief executive of New Zealand Winegrowers.  

Speaking to Wine Behind the Label this week he said the country was coming out of what was its second largest ever vintage in 2016 and in to a year which is more likely to return more normal and average growing and picking conditions.

But the industry is also drawing a huge sigh of relief that the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the South Island in November last year has not caused anywhere near the damage it might have done to its key wine growing area of Marlborough. The epicentre of the earthquake was around Christchurch towards the north of the South Island.

Despite damage to property and tanks, and storage there was only an estimated 2% of damage to the actual 2017 vintage. Gregan said that once assessments had been taken the real concern was whether wineries would be able to cope and recover in time for the 2017 vintage.

“The answer to that is an emphatic yes,” he said.

“The concern was more about infrastructure. Could we get things fixed in time, but through a combination of old and new tanks and finding temporary storage facilities the wineries are saying they are are ready for the 2017 vintage.”

The strong 2016 vintage was a big boost for the New Zealand wine industry which is enjoying unprecedented demand in its key markets of the US, Canada and the UK.

The growth and demand from both the US and Canada, he added, had been particularly pleasing as it has taken a lot of hard work and time to make a breakthrough. “We have seen great growth in both the US and Canada now for around three years and we expect that to continue,” he said.

 

But it has been a long time coming.  “It has taken a long time to achieve, but there is now a real willingness from winemakers to be in the market and a recognition from the trade and consumers about New Zealand’s good value and quality.”

The UK continues to grow and shows no sign of stopping.  “If you said five years ago that our sales would be up 30 to 40% up in the UK I would not have believed you,”  he said. “But all the signs are that the performance will continue.”

He said New Zealand was also benefiting from Free Trade Agreements that have been set up across Asia including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.

He said he was excited about new plantings of varieties such as Albarino and Viognier, but in reality it was its big three grape varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris that were driving interest in New Zealand wine around the world.

New Zealand Winegrowers is just about to host a major international conference on Pinot Noir with some 600 people coming from all over the world to take part in masterclasses, lectures and study and vineyard visits across the country. It follows a similar event based around Sauvignon Blanc last year.

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Neville Blech
 

Qualified as a chartered accountant in 1959 and became passionate about food and wine whilst working in Italy in the early sixties.

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