“It's been an excellent harvest for us in Hawke’s Bay,” says Te Awa winemaker Richard Painter, at Villa Maria’s winery on the Gimblett Gravels.
“It’s clear through our findings that we need to continue reinforcing this.”
Giesen and Villa Maria both participated in Project Veraison, a Te Taurapa Tūhono New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) initiative to research waning interest among Australian consumers for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and to find key drivers for a “reawakening” across the Tasman.
The research, completed in 2019, found that Marlborough’s flagship wine is still Australia’s most consumed wine at home, capturing 40 percent of home wine drinkers every month. But 10 percent of those are drinking less Marlborough Sauvignon than they were a year ago.
Australia is Giesen’s biggest export market, and “hugely important to us”, says Angela. Across the Giesen and Ara Wines brands, approximately 85 percent of Australian sales are Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, she adds. “Within our portfolio, our Giesen Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is consistently our biggest seller by volume and a firm favourite for many Australian wine drinkers.”
Marlborough Sauvignon played a major role in helping build recognition of New Zealand as a notable wine region, she adds. “But the prestige of the trusty Marlborough Sauv has waned as consumers seek out new wine regions or flavours.”
As the wine category becomes more dynamic, Giesen has seen the market demanding experimentation and inspiration, says Angela. And while there are “loyalists who know and love the wine”, there are also younger consumers entering the market “who have no idea where Marlborough is – much less what Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is all about”, she explains “This has occurred alongside deep discounting and overfamiliar consumers, which undermines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’s brand equity and has led to a decline in overall value.”
Project Veraison leader Cather ine Wansink, a Commercial Business Advisor at NZTE, says the research found that 85 percent to 90 percent of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is sold on promotion by Australian retailers, with promotional cycles meaning there is always one of the major producers on promotion, sold at $10 per bottle or less.
Project Veraison identified six key growth drivers for amping up energy around Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, by showing it to be innovative, unique, social, and intrinsically linked to the place it comes from. Catherine says the project revealed potential for a $100 million boost to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc sales across the Tasman by 2022, based on an additional $1 per bottle sold.
Last year NZTE launched a Made with Care food and beverage campaign to help producers tell their stories on the world stage during Covid-19. Project Veraison was absorbed within the initiative, helping grow the connection between the wine and its “uniquely Marlborough” provenance, says Catherine. Last month that provenance story was told again, through the Project Harvest digital campaign in Australia, with Sauvignon Blanc winemakers and viticulturists singing the praises of their product.
“Right now is the time to tell the story of what makes Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – and all New Zealand wine for that matter – so delicious and distinctive,” says Catherine. “It is the place - and the people that care, craft and innovate from that place at the edge of the world.”