The founder of Misha’s Vineyard in Central Otago is one of the many people in this edition who have stories of innovation and resilience, ever-ready to adapt to meet the market in these extraordinary times.
And all that pivoting could be good for us, says Dr Tim Baird of the Faculty of Agribusiness and Commerce at Lincoln University.
“The current situation might not be all bad as new things come along when people are taken out of their comfort zone,” he notes. “Winemakers are forced to be more innovative and some of these ideas may remain relevant in the longer run.”
Tim’s research into wine tourism and innovation has previously highlighted the need for increased digital marketing, and Covid-19 has certainly given the industry a firm kick in that direction. “Everyone had this ‘oh shit’ moment. Suddenly I need digital and I need it right now,” says digital guru Polly Hammond about the busiest period she’s ever experienced.
There’s a “silver lining” in the looming vintage labour crisis as well, says New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) External Relations Manager Nicola Crennan. “That is to build our workforce capability and attract talented people who may not have otherwise thought about the wine industry as a career.” Industry is preparing to adapt and innovate on that front too, with plans to reduce labour requirements, attract and train local talent, utilise wine school students and collaborate for shared success.
And amid all the uncertainty - and the certain pain being felt by many, including New Zealand’s smallest wineries and tour operators – are somewhat startling statistics that show the “sweet spot” New Zealand fills in international markets, with July exports up 23 percent on the previous year. That’s of little solace to companies reliant on on-premise sales around the world, says Philip Gregan. “There are some people who are definitely winning at the moment and some people who are suffering.”