The 2017/18 season is drawing to a close, with the final plots of grapes ripening up and ready to head…
Impressive as that is, it is even more impressive to realise the value of New Zealand wine consumed the world over is $7 billion. Seven billion dollars worth of New Zealand wine, either poured by the glass, or sold as a bottle. That is an extraordinary figure, especially when you consider how tiny our production is in world terms, less than one percent of the total.
The value of New Zealand wine sold into the US last year reached a total of US$400 million, making us the third largest exporter of wine into the States, in terms of value and volume. The average price paid for New Zealand wine in the US is second only to France. In the UK, we hold the title of highest average price.
So how have we come to be such a power broker, when we are such a small player?
The quality of our wine is the single most important reason. Being so small we can never compete against the larger producers who concentrate on quantity. So we have had to find our niche and perfect it, which is what has occurred over the past three decades.
But quality doesn’t just happen. It requires an enormous amount of hard work, from growers and winemakers, plus those marketing the end product. And to create the best possible product, you need to be innovative, always searching for ways of perfecting your skills and fine tuning the way you produce.
Which is why research in the New Zealand wine industry is so vital. When it was blatantly obvious the world had developed a love affair with our Sauvignon Blanc, there was no effort to rest on our laurels. The Sauvignon Blanc Research Programme, one and two, were established. The results from this long reaching project saw information emerge that helped growers and winemakers fine tune their skills to create the best wine possible.
The Lighter Wines programme is helping the industry achieve a goal of being the world leader in wines with less alcohol and lower calories, while not compromising on traditional flavours.
The mechanical shaking research has led to world breaking results to limit the incidence of botrytis in difficult years.
A dedicated Wine Research Centre is about to be opened in Marlborough, the very first industry styled centre of its kind in the country.
And in September, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment announced approval for another major project, to be undertaken by New Zealand Winegrowers. $9.3 million will provided to NZW over five years to study Pinot Noir. Added to that will be $1 m of levy fees, as well as industry-in-kind contributions.
The massive project aims to answer the all-important questions of; What makes a quality Pinot Noir?, and how can New Zealand continue to make the world’s best Pinot Noir at commercially viable production levels?
NZW’s General Manager of Research and Innovation, Dr Simon Hooker says the research programme will look at consumer perceptions, biochemistry, vineyard interventions and winemaking techniques. “The intent is to simultaneously increase quality and productivity of New Zealand Pinot Noir.”
The continued Government support of our wine industry is testament to its success. But it is also a credit to NZW for being innovative and coming up with bankable projects that help make this industry one of the most exciting in the country.