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Great year for wine industry


Great year for wine industry – but will it continue to grow at such a rate ?

Only time will tell whether the New Zealand wine industry can continue to grow at such a rapid rate, a leading Marlborough wine producer said today.

Wine exports totalled $246 million from 23 million litres in the year to June which was an increase of 24 percent in value on the previous 12 months.

Saint Clair Estate Wines said the new Zealand producing vineyard area had doubled since 1998 and was likely to double again by 2006.

``Only time will tell whether it can continue to grow at such a rate,’’ Saint Clair owner Neal Ibbotson said today.

Saint Clair was one of the outstanding New Zealand-owned vineyards this year winning many trophies and gold medals. It is regarded as one of the top 10 New Zealand-owned vineyards.

``We know national production will increase but we don’t know whether we can increase our market share to handle this extra production,’’ Mr Ibbotson said in a state-of-nation view about the industry.

``It is probable some varieties from some regions will achieve the required growth and others will not.

``The good thing is that New Zealand produces wines which are unique, fruit driven with good acid balance which generally sell in the quality end of the market.

``The challenge is that a number of other new world producing countries are also upping production and quality significantly.’’

The brightest point for 2002 was the success and recognition in many countries of New Zealand being a producer of quality white and red wine.

As new plantings throughout New Zealand come into production the biggest challenge, which is also an opportunity, is to find export markets for this increased production.

The great drive for quality wine by New Zealand wineries is an exciting step for the industry heading into 2003.

``We are not restricted by excessive red tape and we are able to grow and to manage the best varieties for the area, and for particular sites within the area, with the best management practices.

``With every year, as our knowledge grows we are discovering more about different sites and how to manage these sites in different seasons to maximise quality,’’ he said. Marlborough remains the biggest wine growing area in New Zealand making up 44 percent of the industry.

It has achieved world recognition as a top wine producing area of the world.

``This is amazing when you consider the first exports only occurred about 1985.Its future growth seems assured as long as it can continue to produce some of the world’s most remarkable wines.

``It is estimated that 2000 hectares were planted in Marlborough this year and similar growth is expected next year.

``Demand is strong especially for Marlborough sauvignon blanc and it appears the more that is produced the more the market wants. Time will tell whether this continues into the future as the large plantings come on stream.’’

There are probably bigger question marks over pinot noir production, with substantial plantings not only in Marlborough but also in Martinborough, Canterbury and Central Otago, with a lot of these plantings aimed at the equivalent of $NZ30 per bottle, or more, where the market segment is small.

A number of Marlborough companies have sold out to overseas interests and this trend is likely to continue as overseas investors see the opportunity to have a share in one of the world’s new leading wine areas producing what is now recognized as the world’s best sauvignon blanc.

Marlborough is arguably the best wine region in the southern hemisphere, although there are other regions in NZ and Australia who would disagree.

Mr Ibbotson said his own company, Saint Clair, had an outstanding year.

It won 13 medals – including five golds and four trophies - from all 13 wines entered in the Air NZ wine awards in November. No other company won as many trophies.

Saint Clair produced 48,000 cases last year compared with 100,000 cases this year, with white wine making up 75 percent of production.

Saint Clair is sold in 30 countries overseas and 80 percent of their wine is exported and resulted in eight trophies over the last four months.

They recently sent shipments to new markets in the Czech Republic, Mauritius, the Philippines, Spain and Italy and they are talking to the West Indies, Guatemala, Russia, Africa, Ukraine and China.

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