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Biggest NZ vintage

Published:  23 July, 2008

New Zealand has celebrated its largest-ever vintage - 185,000 tonnes with predictions of area under vine rising from 22,000 hectares to 30,000 by 2007/8 and a 300,000 tonne vintage by 2010/11.

Brian Vieceli, chairman of the New Zealand Wine Growers, was in London last week (6 July). He told Harpers that the powerhouse variety remains Sauvignon Blanc and the major region continues to be Marlborough.

Marlborough has grown at a rapid rate and is maturing as our workhorse region. It does well in all our categories, including Pinot Noir. It can grow most varieties. There has been a bit of focus on our aromatics, but we need more plantings of Pinot Gris and Riesling. We have to focus on getting things right, and that can mean we miss an opportunity,' he said.

Even with increased plantings and greater crushes, Vieceli does not envisage New Zealand ever being a big-volume player competing with the likes of Australia and Chile at the competitive end of the wine market. New Zeland will never be a player in that section of the market,' said the former

CEO of Nobilo, now owned by Constellation. Our place in the sun is the quality proposition.'

While the UK remains by far the largest export market for New Zealand wine, Vieceli reports that the US and Australia have developed a huge thirst for Kiwi wines, predominately Sauvignon Blanc, with exports up 24% and 42% respectively.

The challenge for us is that we are moving from being allocators to marketers. We must maintain the quality and have a good price position, said Vieceli.

The country's producers and generic body are in the enviable position of having to manage shortfalls in supply during the summer. It is a critical issue,' he said. We have to pull back from activity. We focus on quality and we have worked hard to achieve what we have. The New Zealand wine industry works well together. We have good unity. We do not want to muck it up by overcropping and rewarding mediocrity,' added Vieceli.