American consumers splashing out on premium New Zealandwines in favour of cheap and cheerful Australian offering.

New Zealand exports to US leapfrog those from Australia for the first time

The news will have your average Australian winemaker spluttering into his Chardonnay, but for the first time exports of New Zealand wines to the US have oustripped those from Australia.

The value of New Zealand wine exports to the US leapfrogged those of their Antipodean neighbour for the first time last year, according to  industry analysts Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.  

Cloudy Bay was one of the first premium brands to put New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the map

While New Zealand’s wines leaped 11% to $400m, the largest increase amongst the top eight importers, Australian wine exports dropped by 8% and Argentina’s by 4%.   In volume terms, New Zealand wines also fared well in the US, up by 14% to 7.3 million cases, while Australian imports dropped by 11% to 16.7 million cases.

However, the limited production capacity of New Zealand’s wine industry means it is unable to export large volumes, which has focused the industry on quality instead of quality. 

While New Zealand  country is the third biggest importer by value into the US after Italy and France, it is seventh largest in volume terms, with just 5.5% of the 132 million cases imported last year.  

And New Zealand is seeing the benefits of selling quality wines at higher prices into the American market, where drinkers are becoming increasingly discerning. Exports have doubled in the past five years, making it the largest market for big producers like Constellation Brands, whose Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is the number one seller in the US.  

“We are seeing newer generations who have more expensive wine earlier in their drinking lives than the baby boomers ever did,” said Rabobank’s Marc Soccio. “These trends have naturally played into the hands of a country like New Zealand.”  

The US became New Zealand’s biggest wine market in 2015, and last year its exports to the US increased to 29% of total exports, up from 21% in 2011.

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