Monday, 03 October 2022 16:25

Our Reputation - Worth Protecting

Written by  Philip Gregan
Philip Gregan Philip Gregan

Reputation, as everybody knows, is a hugely valuable asset - hard to earn and easy to lose.

For New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) one of our primary goals is to protect and enhance the reputation of New Zealand wine. We don't do this by ourselves of course, as every grower and winery is a vital contributor to that reputation, as are all the regional winegrowing bodies.

As such it was disturbing to see allegations in a recent Sunday programme about the treatment of Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme workers in our industry. This was not a clear representation of the way we as an industry care for our people, and reflected badly on us all. At the time of writing the outcome of the investigation into the allegations is not known, so I will not dwell on the specific issues raised in the programme, but rather it is timely to reflect on the importance of reputation.

During the past 30 or so years, our industry has gone from a relatively small domestically focused industry with about 6,000 hectares under vine, to an industry directly employing over 7,000 Kiwis (and many more indirectly) with more than 40,000ha of producing vines, earning nearly $2 billion in export receipts, and generating about $500 million in domestic sales. That growth and success is due to our reputation for quality, for sustainability, for premium products, which supports the decisions of consumers in New Zealand and overseas each and every time they buy a New Zealand wine. It is a reputation that sees, on average, consumers pay more for New Zealand wine than they do for wines from other countries. And it is that reputation that hopefully will see tourists returning to New Zealand to visit our wineries now that the borders are fully open once again.

In short, with a positive reputation, our industry has grown and added a lot of value to New Zealand and its regions. 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. Both small things and big things all have the potential to add to, or diminish, the reputation of New Zealand wines.

From a big picture perspective, that means the industry needs to be seen to be committed to sustainability – to be looking after the land, water and air that is the source of the grapes we grow. It means striving to produce high quality grapes and wine that distinctly reflect their origins in Aotearoa and our regions and subregions. And it means looking after the people who grow the grapes and make and sell our wines.

From a NZW perspective, social license to operate is a key driving force behind the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) programme. Building our reputation for quality underpins the Bragato Research Industry research programme, and is intrinsic to the New Zealand wine brand story we talk about in-market. From an advocacy perspective, protecting and enhancing the reputation of our industry is fundamental, from legislation such as the Wine Act, to the Geographical Indications legislation - these underpin the industry. We also produce a range of guides for industry members, all of which are aimed at protecting the reputation of the industry (from the Spray Schedule to our International Winemaking and Labelling guides to our Code of Conduct for Our People). You can find these resources on nzwine.com/members.

The very high standards set by the vast majority of our industry members are the reason our wines and our industry have developed such a positive global reputation. The ongoing success of New Zealand’s wine industry depends strongly on our reputation for the quality of our wine, respecting the land, and above all else, respecting and nurturing our people. Ensuring that good work continues in the future has to be a priority for each grower and winery, for NZW and for all regional associations.

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