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New Zealand vintage 'exceptional' but down 19%

Published:  14 June, 2021

The quality of the 2021 vintage has been described as "exceptional" throughout New Zealand’s wine regions, although the harvest was smaller than hoped for, according to New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW).

There were 370,000 tonnes of grapes harvested during the vintage, down 19% on last year’s crop, with regions throughout the middle of the country – Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, and North Canterbury – impacted the most, down over 20% on 2020.

However, there was some variability across different parts of the country, with Central Otago the one region to increase its crop, up 21% on last year’s harvest. 

“While the quality is exceptional, the overall smaller harvest means many of our wineries will face tough decisions over who they can supply in their key markets,” said Philip Gregan, CEO of NZW. 

“There is going to be some supply and demand tension because of this, with the shortfall in the crop equivalent to roughly seven million nine litre cases of New Zealand wine,” he said. 

It was, he added, encouraging to see that during “these uncertain times”, consumers continued to choose a premium product they know that they can trust”. 

While wines from vintage 2021 promised to be “something special”,  in some instances, the question “may just be whether there is enough to go around”, he said. 

The smaller crop is due to cooler spring weather and late frosts in some regions, and comes at a time when the industry is facing increasing production costs, with ongoing labour shortages also adding pressure. 

Given the impact and associated difficulties of Covid-19 over the past year, the New Zealand wine industry was opposed to a looming increase in wine excise which would see the tax rise on 1 July, according to NZW. 

A major concern with this increase was the impact it would have on the approximately 300 small wineries who only sell in the domestic market, said the industry body.

“They have already been hit hard by the lack of international tourists post-Covid, surging production costs, and the difficulties being experienced in the hospitality sector. Adding to those stresses with yet another tax rise does not make sense right now,” said Gregan. 

Further vintage data can be found here

At the beginning of this year, NZW reported a 23% leap in off-trade value sales of New Zealand wine in the UK.