What changes have you seen for New Zealand wine in Europe over the past decade?
When I first began at New Zealand Winegrowers in 2011, New Zealand wines were already well known and established in the United Kingdom, but less so in Europe. The initial focus was a wine programme in partnership with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) to develop awareness of New Zealand wines in mainland Europe, focussing on Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, and latterly it has been maintaining our position and reputation in the UK. The growth across all markets has been phenomenal, even in the UK where New Zealand is the most popular white wine in market, selling well above the average bottle price in the UK. Much of the growth has occurred as new markets have discovered the unique qualities of New Zealand Sauvignon for the first time, or established markets have broadened their New Zealand range and explored the diversity across styles, the varietal range and the different regional characteristics.
How has Covid-19 impacted on New Zealand wine sales over the past 18 months?
In the initial lockdown, alcohol sales grew strongly in the off-trade, including wine. The trends we saw were that consumers stuck with brands they trusted, and wines they new and loved. New Zealand wines were already extremely popular and with the on-trade and other entertainment facilities shut, consumers found they had more disposable income and were willing to trade up and spend more on a bottle of wine, so our sales were boosted. New Zealand wines outperformed the market throughout the year following the first lockdown, with growth of more than 20 percent in volume and value.
Has the lifting of restrictions in England impacted on demand for New Zealand wine?
As restrictions have eased and the on-premise has opened, the growth in the off-trade has inevitably slowed. Despite this, New Zealand wines continue to perform well, with the hope that the positive sentiment for New Zealand will transfer to the on-trade, so the future is bright. However, there are some challenges ahead, including the availability of the 2021 vintage, supply chain and logistics issues, and the impact of Brexit.
What wine trends are you seeing in the market, and are there further opportunities for New Zealand producers to tap into them?
During the lockdown, one of the biggest impacts on the industry was the phenomenal growth in online sales, which presents another route to market for producers. Specifically on wine, however, the main trend we have seen is the demand for dry Rosés and this is certainly an area I think New Zealand producers can take advantage of. We have already seen strong growth in this area. With the potential shortage of Sauvignon Blanc from the 2021 vintage, there could also be an opportunity to further showcase our aromatic varieties. There are also increasingly more opportunities for alternative packaging formats such as cans.
Tell us about Expo 2020 Dubai, and the opportunity for New Zealand wine
Expo 2020 Dubai provides an unparalleled opportunity to promote New Zealand as a progressive, innovative and trusted partner to a global audience, especially with the borders being closed. New Zealand has a pavilion at the event where exporters have a distinct platform to hold events, product launches and activities. Indeed, we are looking to hold a wine education session for buyers and local sommeliers and trade. The Pavilion restaurant will also be serving premium New Zealand food and beverages, including a wide selection of New Zealand wines, providing the international guests with the opportunity to taste and explore our products in a relaxed and welcoming environment.