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Tauranga Winery Wins American Accolade For 2001

Tauranga Winery One Of Four NZ Wines To Win American Accolade For 2001

December 20, 2001 -- A boutique winery based in Tauranga has had its wine acclaimed as one of the year’s best by one of the world’s most prestigious wine magazines.

Thornbury Wines 2001 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough was included in an international list of top 100 wines compiled by US-based Wine Spectator magazine.

Wine Spectator gave Thornbury’s Sauvignon Blanc 91 points out of a possible score of 100, earning them 47th place - the highest rating for a New Zealand wine.

Winning the attention of such a prestigious publication has been a huge boost for the label, says Thornbury winemaker Steve Bird.

“This kind of exposure and seal of approval from Wine Spectator is something money can’t buy, “ he says.

Three other Sauvignon Blanc wines from Marlborough were also recognised in Wine Spectator magazine’s 2001 list: Cloudy Bay was 63rd, Montana’s US brand, Brancott Vineyards, was 72nd, and ranking at 80th place was Lawson Dry Hills.

The achievements of all four New Zealand wines are especially noteworthy given that the Wine Spectator tasting panel evaluated around 14,000 wines over the year before coming up with its final top 100 list.

The judges described the Thornbury wine as a “bright and lovely, beautifully proportioned New Zealand white, juicy with cascades of melon, apple and passionfruit flavours that echo on the finish against a note of bracing acidity.”

The magazine went on to say it was hard to believe that Thornbury’s first vintage was 1998, given the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc.

“Winemaker Steve Bird sources grapes from three different Marlborough vineyards to achieve the complex fruit flavours he seeks.”

This latest recognition for Thornbury has already led to increased orders from the USA, as well as generating further international interest from Germany and Singapore, says Steve Bird.

Thornbury has two vineyards in Marlborough and one vineyard in Hawkes Bay. They also use contract grape growers from both regions. Thornbury’s home base and its winemaking hub are in Tauranga, where its production quality is aimed at the top end of the market.

Exports are crucial for Thornbury with 90 per cent of its current annual production of 14,000 cases destined for overseas markets. The biggest market by far is the US, which takes three quarters of Thornbury’s exports.

Trade New Zealand has been working closely with Thornbury for two years to assist in identifying new markets for its wine. Tauranga-based Trade New Zealand Account Manager Jodie Tipping says Thornbury has earned its success by focusing on making the best wine possible.

“All other aspects such as their marketing, their website, and their labels are part of that vision of being the best,” she says.

Trade New Zealand statistics show overall wine exports to the US have increased from $14 million in 1999 to $41 million in 2001, and are projected to reach over $100 million in the next two years. By 2006, wine exports to the US are exported to top $240 million.

Overall demand for New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc in the US far outstrips supply, says David Strada, the New Zealand Wine Institute’s representative in San Francisco.

“New Zealand is regarded as having the gold standard of Sauvignon Blanc,” he said. “To have four wines in the top 100 is a great achievement.”

Mr Strada says interest in New Zealand wines has soared in recent years, and while Sauvignon Blanc attracts the greatest interest at wine fairs, others varieties like Pinot Noir and Riesling are also gaining attention.

The growth in the US market is critical for New Zealand wine producers, says Paul Vaughan, Trade New Zealand’s Auckland-based wine Account Manager.

“While the United Kingdom remains our biggest wine market, it’s important that new markets are developed, especially given the rapid increase in wine production here, “ he says.

“The US market can’t get enough of our Sauvignon Blanc, particularly if it’s from the Marlborough region,” Mr Vaughan said.

“It’s a key favourite for US importers.”


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