Tuesday, 02 April 2024 13:40

From the CEO: Our Good Reputation

Written by  Philip Gregan
Philip Gregan Philip Gregan

OPINION: Harvest begins, and almost immediately we start to get media enquiries about how the vintage is going and whether it is going to be a good year for New Zealand wine.

It is great to see the media interest in the industry, but in early February it is always difficult to give an answer that is not pure speculation.

At the time of writing, mid-March, harvest is well underway throughout the country, and, to date, it seems that growers and wineries appear very happy with quality. The summer and autumn so far have delivered close to ideal conditions, which is being reflected in the grapes – there is little disease pressure and flavours are good. After the challenges posed by Cyclone Gabrielle last year, this will be a big relief for many in the industry. On the other hand, it seems nationally the harvest volume is going to be well down on the past two years, reflecting cool flowering weather and the impact of frosts.

So, it appears that nature is going to deliver on the quality front this year, but it has been somewhat stingier in terms of quantity. Vintage quality, of course, is not just determined by nature; it is also a function of all those decisions, from pruning onwards, made by growers and wineries through the course of the vineyard year, and in the winery once the grapes have been picked. I’ve yet to meet a producer in New Zealand who does not want to produce quality grapes and wine, so ‘quality’ is one of the outcomes driving those decisions.

Wine quality is one of the factors underpinning the reputation that New Zealand Wine has built over the past two or three decades. Without the right reputation – premium, distinctive, sustainable – our wines would not command the prices that they do in international markets. As our reputation has grown over time, so has our industry. Curated well, that reputation will underpin future success and growth of our industry over the next generation and beyond. On the other hand, lose that reputation, or bring it into question, and that would put everything that has been achieved at risk.

Protecting and enhancing the New Zealand wine brand reputation is the responsibility of every grower, winery, contractor, and employee in the industry. Small and big decisions all have the potential to add to, or diminish, the reputation of New Zealand wines. So, our reputation should be of interest to every industry member. It should help guide decision making for growers, winemakers, and wine marketers and sellers.

Of course, New Zealand Winegrowers has a role in protecting our brand reputation. From an advocacy perspective, enhancing the reputation of our industry is fundamental, from legislation such as the Wine Act, to the Geographical Indications legislation, these underpin the industry. And we produce a range of guides for industry members, all of which are aimed at protecting the reputation of the industry, such as the Spray Schedule and winemaking and labelling guides. From a brand perspective, we are now tracking consumer views on our wine and reporting those back to members; our in-market seminars tell the New Zealand wine story to trade and media. Our sustainability activities support the brand of course, and our research activities, through Bragato Research Institute, virtually all have a strong focus on quality and sustainability, key components of the New Zealand Wine brand’s reputation

There are also a host of industry initiatives all dedicated in one way or another to improving the quality and reputation of our grapes and wines. Regional associations, Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, the New Zealand Society for Viticulture and Oenology, the Pinot and Syrah workshops, Hawke’s Bay Wine’s Chardonnay Symposium, Appellation Marlborough Wine and others are all helping build our reputation.

The very high standards set by growers and wineries are the reason our wines and our industry have a positive global reputation today. Our future success depends on maintaining and enhancing all aspects of that reputation – whether it be for the quality of our wines, our commitment to sustainability, or for respecting and nurturing our people.

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