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Some relief in New Zealand as harvest looks to return to normal size

Published:  21 February, 2022

The first grapes of the 2022 New Zealand vintage have been harvested, with ongoing international demand and low stock levels meaning that winemakers are hoping for a significantly larger harvest this year. 

Chris Stroud, market manager, Europe, New Zealand Wine Growers, told Harpers: “It’s a bit early to say, but early signs are encouraging that we will see a return to a more normal harvest size.”

In 2021, the New Zealand harvest was 19% smaller than the previous year, with many wineries drawing down on stocks to maintain their place in the market. As a result, the sale of New Zealand wine in 2021 was 324 million litres, which was 48 million litres more than was produced in the 2021 vintage. This stock drawdown means a bigger harvest is vital in 2022 to replenish cellars and help satisfy the international demand.

Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, said: “Over the past 12 months, many New Zealand wineries have faced tough decisions over who they can supply in their key markets, and the ongoing increase in international demand has placed a huge strain on already depleted stocks. For some wineries, there has been quite simply just not enough wine to go around.”

Increasing production costs and the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on the border, markets, and supply chains have continued to impact the industry. In addition, over the past 12 months, the availability of labour has been an enormous concern for many growers and wineries.

Gregan added: “The introduction of Omicron into the New Zealand community on the cusp of vintage 2022 is a grave concern for growers and wineries, as this is our busiest time of year, and we are already facing a critical labour shortage in some regions.”

Wine businesses that sell predominantly through the on-premise and tourism sectors also continue to experience significant setbacks. Cellar doors have been hit hard by the collapse in international tourist numbers over the past two years. 

Although the coming vintage is expected to be challenging, the experience of managing harvest during Covid times in both 2020 and 2021 has strengthened the industry in its resilience to respond quickly and adapt during difficult times.

In November, Harpers reported on the chronic Sauvignon Blanc shortfall in 2022 due to the small New Zealand harvest the year before.

Paul Braydon, buying controller at Kingsland Drinks, said: “As vintage 2021 progressed and harvest was completed in March, the lack of wine became a reality, so we started to look for alternatives as it was clear there wouldn’t be enough NZ Sauvignon Blanc to fulfil all of our customers’ requirements.”