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NZ wineries import Sauvignon Blanc to cope with demand

Published:  26 March, 2014

Shortages of New Zealand's signature grape have led to imports of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and South Africa to satisfy demand.

New Zealand Winegrowers European marketing manager Chris Stroud told at ProWein in Dusseldorf earlier this week that since 2012 shortages, some wineries have been importing Sauvignon Blanc from elsewhere in the New World to place into lower-priced brands for the domestic market.

"The wines are labelled as being from Chile or wherever so there is no chance of passing off. These imports have happened a number of times in the past and will happen in the future when there are shortages."

Looking at the 2014 harvest, crops are up 15% on last year, with global exports rising around 5%, so Stroud insists there's no need to worry about oversupply. "In 2012 we had a shortfall and in 2013 wineries were getting back into balance. It's important we can supply that increasing demand."

He said the 2014 harvest did not resemble 2008, "when there was a lot of juice" thanks to a bumper harvest and new vineyards coming on-stream.  He said some wineries were already looking for more wine as demand grows in the US, UK, Australia and China. He is not worried about prices falling, saying he believes they will "be maintained or even increase".

Such is demand for New Zealand's signature grape Sauvignon Blanc, some wineries have taken to importing it from other New World producers.

UK volume sales are up 6% (Nielsen MAT February 2014), and 5% by value. Current average price for New Zealand wine in the UK is almost £2 ahead of the average at £7.20 and it is seeing strong growth in the +£6 price points, Stroud said.

He anticipates further growth in the year ahead given the larger vintage. "The weather is great and in some regions vintage is only just beginning so grapes are still on the vine."

Currently Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 85% of exports from New Zealand, although it is trying to build awareness of its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay wines. Stroud said there are developments with newer styles of Sauvignon Blanc, showing more oak and characteristics from the sub regions.