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Premium NZ wine leaking into spy network

December 15, 2005

Premium NZ wine leaking into spy network

Marlborough’s award-winning wine Spy Valley has attracted growing worldwide attention this year because of its undercover name.

Spying will reach a peak in the year 007.

The wine company got its smart name from the US satellite monitoring base just up the road in the Waihopai valley.

The Spy label has caught on in New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States, Western Australia, South Australia, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Hong Kong. Spy Valley will be exporting to Asia and mainland Europe by this time next year.

General manager Blair Gibbs said he can’t wait for 2007 when they release their wines with an eye-catching label: ``Spy Valley, 007’’.

``Some of our best cellar door customers are the employees of the American spy base who find good humour in the brand, enjoy the quality of the wine.

``They love posting Spy Valley wine and our promotional clothing to their friends and colleagues overseas: the Spy network is working! ``The 007 vintage is in the planning stage but naturally we have great ideas connecting the year 007 and Spy!’’

America’s leading wine magazine, the USA Wine Spectator rated the Spy Valley wines all above 88 points this year. The Wine Spectator is a US buyers bible and their ratings are taken very seriously by the US consumer. Wines are ranked out of 100 points so to get a 90 or above is the magic number to have. The Spectator is also shipped globally and has a huge distribution and readership.

They gave the Spy pinot noir 91 points, the riesling 90, the chardonnay 89 and the sauvignon blanc 88 points.

Spy is expanding into new export markets next year they are and currently operating in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and the Philippines. At 2000 tonnes, they are category two size company – one of 34 in New Zealand who are large but not in the mass production stakes.

``We are on the commercial side of the ledger but we feel we are still a small family owned and operated company producing premium, world class wines,’’ Gibbs says.

During 2004, Spy Valley scored outstanding award results including the best riesling trophy at the London International wine competition.

The London success followed on from Spy Valley winning double gold medal for its riesling at the San Francisco international wine competition.

Spy also won a riesling gold at Air NZ Wine Awards and recent lifted three blue-golds (double golds) in the Sydney International Wine Competition for its gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

The results are a substantial reward for Spy Valley’s vineyards, which when planted 10 years ago were considered to be in a marginal area. The 2004 results further reinforces their decision on investing in a major new winery complex.

Their 2002 pinot noir also won gold at the Japan International Wine Challenge this year.

“Winning awards like this on a global stage helped identify the label and provided extra sales boosts for our importers and distributors” Gibbs said. ``Accolades such as this are a huge springboard for us in a year when all New Zealand companies have increased production.’’

Spy have also been chosen for Air New Zealand international flights as a result of an inflight blind wine tasting. Their 2004 sauvignon blanc has been chosen for economy class.

Air NZ purchases nearly one million bottles of wine a year. Fifty-four per cent of that wine comes from Marlborough. Spy Valley are also one of New Zealand’s leading family-owned wine companies.

Their new winery is one of the most modern in Marlborough and was the venue for the Air New Zealand wine awards tasting last month.

Spy Valley has an ethos similar to New Zealand cricket captain Stephen Fleming and former All Blacks’ backs coach Robbie Deans of under-stating and over-achieving.

``We like to be understated,’’ says vineyard general manager Blair Gibbs.

``A little says a lot. We are struggling to provide enough wine at present to invest in new markets.’’ For the next few years Spy will be building up to full production. They strive to do most things differently.

They have a young team headed by talented winemakers Ant Mackenzie and Jayne Cosgrove and others who enthusiastically run the 360 acre vineyard.

The vineyard also provides accommodation with Timara Lodge – a famous regional heritage building.

``There aren’t many wine companies in NZ who can offer luxury lodges with a winery attached., and none that are under single family ownership.’’

Timara Lodge is recognised as one of New Zealand's most luxurious and private lodges and set in 25 acres of one of New Zealand's most beautiful gardens.


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