Monday, 04 December 2023 14:25

Editorial: Making up for lost time

Written by  Sophie Preece

OPINION: After years of virtual gatherings, remote tastings, and 'new normal' caution, New Zealand's wine industry has been making up for lost time.

In the past few months there's been a flood of sold-out events to educate, celebrate and connect the industry, from the Aotearoa New Zealand Chardonnay Symposium in Hawke's Bay to the New Zealand Winegrowers Wine Business Froum and Altogether Unique celebration in Christchurch, and the Marlborough Wine Show Celebration Evening in Marlborough, which also honoured 50 years of wine in the region. "It's remarkable what has happened in 50 years," said viticulturist Ivan Sutherland on the night. "You wouldn't have imagined in your wildest dreams that there would be 30,000 hectares [of grapes] in this valley."

It's a dream that wine legend Oz Clarke encapsulated in his talk to attendees at the Business Forum, reminding them all how New Zealand wines shocked and amazed the world when they landed on its stage. "New Zealand's wines tasted of a somewhere that had never existed before," he said. "It started from scratch on land that had never grown a grape. Everything to play for. Everything to prove. Absolutely no need to copy anybody."

All of these events, as well as many others that occurred in the past few months, including the National Wine Awards of Aotearoa New Zealand, and the inaugural New Zealand Wine Centre Scientific Research Conference, are evidence of the connected strength and collegiality of the industry.

It's strength that will be required as companies face a slowdown in New Zealand wine exports. In an email to members in mid-October, New Zealand Winegrowers Chief Executive Philip Gregan said several factors are playing into that shift, including bumper sales in the lockdowns of 2020, a light vintage in 2021, and pipeline refilling in 2022. That's in a wider context of high inflation, high interest rates, and economic uncertainty in key markets. "Wineries are unsure how this is going to impact demand."

On the upside, this edition looks at the growth of New Zealand sparkling wine, and its potential to make even greater strides. It seems a fitting way to end a year that was jammed with celebrations and to start a new one packed with potential.

Sophie Preece


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