Friday, 15 December 2023 16:25

A bright future for New Zealand sparkling wine

Written by  Sophie Preece
The launch of Mumm Central Otago Blanc de Noir. The launch of Mumm Central Otago Blanc de Noir.

Pernod Ricard's sparkling production in Marlborough has almost doubled in the past five years, with some Sauvignon Blanc blocks now being redeveloped to help fill demand.

“From our perspective, the future is bright,” says New Zealand Operations Manager Tony Robb. “Marlborough méthode traditionnelle represents a very profitable alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.”

Pernod Ricard has grown its Marlborough plantings of sparkling grape varieties - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier - from about 150 hectares 10 years ago, to 250ha now, with plans to expand further. The biggest challenge to increasing production is having enough Chardonnay to include in the blends, Tony says. "We are now actively redeveloping and re-planting some of our Sauvignon Blanc vineyars with Chardonnay, to support ongoing demand for quality sparkling."

The company, through various owners, has been making méthode traditionnelle in Marlborough for more than 30 years, originally with Deutz Marlborough and then the addition of Mumm Marlborough in 2020. “Mumm Marlborough has accelerated the premium sparkling category and has been the most successful sparkling innovation in Australia and New Zealand since its launch,” Tony says. In spring this year Pernod Ricard launched Mumm Central Otago Blanc de Noir in an extension of the Mumm Terroirs portfolio, which also includes Mumm Tasmania in Australia and Mumm Napa in the United States.

Tony says from a production perspective, sparkling wine offers a better return on vineyard investment than table wine, due to the higher yields and lower inputs. “In some regions, like Central Otago, the early harvest of sparkling grapes can eliminate late season frost risks. Disease pressure tends to be lower in sparkling grapes given the shorter season and harvesting at lower brix.”

Meanwhile, demand in the sparkling wine category has grown, particularly off the back of the pandemic, with consumers looking to enjoy sparkling wine beyond just ‘celebratory’ occasions, he says. “With an increase in global demand of Champagne, causing price increases and supply challenges, there is an opportunity to export our sparkling beyond New Zealand and Australia.”

The Mumm Terroirs range contributes to Pernod Ricard’s focus on premiumisation of products, “and accelerating our prestige portfolio”, Tony says. “Our vision for Mumm Terroirs is to build a premium sparkling and fine wine range under Maison Mumm, utilising the world’s most sought-after Pinot Noir regions, and using méthode traditionnelle. Because this method is both labour intensive and costly, we only use it for our prestige products, knowing that we are prioritising quality over quantity.”

New Zealand sparkling is still relatively small on the world stage, but Tony notes the halo effect of a globally recognised brand. “We have seen with the introduction of Mumm Marlborough that the established Mumm brand supports recruitment of new consumers to New Zealand country of origin sparkling wine.”

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