Interviews

New Zealand Wine: A Dynamic Trade Organization in a Dynamic Wine-Producing Nation

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07/03/2024 New Zealand Wine: Navigating Growth, Diversity, and International Markets Through a Dynamic Trade Organization

New Zealand constitutes one of the world’s most dynamic wine-producing nations. Currently, 2024 production conditions look good. Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, reported:

“Since flowering in December, the weather has been close to ideal for grapes. All the reports we are receiving suggest ripening is progressing well and disease pressure is low. With the grapes in excellent condition, it seems we are heading towards another quality New Zealand wine vintage.”

There may be, however, a lighter yield this year. “We are expecting some lift in crop volumes in northern regions this year, but nationally we expect the 2024 harvest to be down on the last two years, perhaps significantly so. We are about to conduct our pre-vintage survey of wineries and expect this will confirm all the anecdotal reports of a smaller crop in 2024.”

Source: NZ Wine 

Like the industry it represents, New Zealand Winegrowers is dynamic. Mr. Gregan and his team stay busy. The organization will be fully represented at ProWein, and in May there will be the annual multi-city roadshow in China. “The roadshow serves as a platform to showcase New Zealand's finest wines, uniting exporters and importers with approximately 1,000 trade professionals in New Zealand's primary markets within China.” China counts among the most significant markets for export growth. 

Chris Stroud, the Winegrowers’ Market Manager for Europe, kindly answered a few questions about the organization and New Zealand’s wine industry. His comments on the New Zealand-EU Free Trade Agreement, which will come into force shortly, were particularly interesting. 

Please briefly describe the history and purpose of New Zealand Winegrowers. What is your role in the organization?

New Zealand Winegrowers is the national organization for the country's grape and wine sector, with over 600 grower members and 700 winery members. Established in March 2002, we are the only unified national winegrowers industry body in the world. 

New Zealand Winegrowers conducts a wide range of tasks to support our members including: 

- Advocacy at regional, national, and international levels

- Providing a global marketing platform for New Zealand wine

- Facilitating world-class research on industry priorities

- Giving the industry timely and strategic information

- Leading the development of sustainable production practices

- Organizing sector-wide events such as Grape Days, Spray Days, and other industry celebrations and networking events 

I am the Marketing Manager for Europe, which forms part of the Brand Team. 

Is it still the case that most consumers think New Zealand wine = Sauvignon Blanc? Please describe in detail the diversity of New Zealand wine production in terms of producers, varieties, and regions.

New Zealand produces 1% of the world’s wine yet offers an impressive range of high-quality varieties and styles.  Sauvignon Blanc was the first wine to put New Zealand on the map, and it has developed a cult following with millions around the globe.  It is indeed our largest variety representing 65% of plantings 75% of production and 90% of exports.  Four varieties - Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay - account for over 90% of wine production. 

New Zealand, however, also excels in the production of an increasing range of popular styles and varieties – with Riesling, Syrah, and Bordeaux Blends leading the way, and everything from Albariño to Zinfandel. 

New Zealand also offers sparkling wines which may be small but critically renowned with high-quality Méthode Traditionelle styles. 

There are 10 grape-growing regions that extend 1,600km (1,000 miles) from subtropical Northland down to Central Otago, home to the world’s most southerly vineyards. Of the approximately 700 producers, the vast majority (87%) are small boutique artisan producers.

Source: NZ Wine 

Our vineyards benefit from the moderating effect of our maritime climate (no vineyard is more than 130 km, or 80 miles, from the ocean), long sunshine hours, and nights cooled by sea breezes. 

Most of our wine regions are found on the eastern coastlines of the North and South Islands, in the rain shadow of the mountains, each with its unique soils and climatic conditions. Within these diverse regions, subregional characteristics shine through and wines are distinguished as being not just from a wine region, but from a subregion and a place. 

Tell us a bit about the NZ-EU free trade agreement as it pertains to wine. Is it already having an impact? Please reflect on both NZ's domestic market as well as its impact on NZ wine exports.

The NZ-EU FTA is not yet in force but is likely to enter into force by mid-2024. Key FTA highlights for wine include:

- Tariffs will be eliminated immediately for Wine on entry into force or ‘Day One’ of the FTA.  Economic modeling estimates tariff savings of $5.5 million will be saved annually.

- Reduction in the regulatory burden and costs for New Zealand wine and spirits producers exporting to the EU. 

- This includes issues such as labeling requirements for wine, winemaking practices, and certification. For example: Significantly increasing the number of winemaking practices and physical winemaking processes our winemakers can use in line with New Zealand laws and requirements (as opposed to EU requirements) for wine exported to the EU.

- Widening the alcohol range winemakers can use when labeling their product as ‘wine’ in the EU, from the current range of 8.5% actual to 15% total alcoholic strength as regulated in the EU to 7% actual to 20% total alcoholic strength.

- Geographic Indicators have been agreed for wine. 23 New Zealand wine GIs will be protected (including Marlborough, Central Otago, Waiheke Island, and Martinborough) alongside protected EU wine GIs.

Source: NZ Wine

Export markets are extremely important to the New Zealand wine industry. Please provide a few facts and figures regarding this. How important is China?

The New Zealand wine industry is now the most export-focused of all the world’s wine industries with close to 90% of sales occurring outside our home market.

New Zealand Wine is exported to over 100 countries and is New Zealand’s 6th largest export good. 

Its value in 2023 was NZ$2.4 billion, a record year-on-year increase of 23%. With value growth outpacing volume (+19%), it is clear consumers are prepared to pay the higher prices New Zealand wines command. In all our key markets around the world, New Zealand commands the highest or second-highest average price in the market. 

Key markets are the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and China. 

There's a New Chair for NZ Women in Wine. Who is she and what is that organization? Please describe in detail the importance of diversity in the world of New Zealand winegrowing, with examples.

Jo Cribb is the new Chair of Women in Wine. “Connect, inform, change” is the motto of NZ Women in Wine.  

It was launched in 2017 to support women to reach their goals and move into leadership roles.  It also encourages organizations to check their gender balance and payrolls.  The NZ wine industry is almost a 50-50 split of men and women; talented women are working all roles from the vineyard to sales & export.  It is therefore important that women continue to move into senior and governance roles.   Diversity adds strength to the decision table.  Since the launch of NZ Women in Wine we have seen more women put themselves forward for Board positions, as well as more women launch their wine labels or move into senior positions. 

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The NZ wine industry is proud to have male champions supporting women in the industry to do this and highlight the inclusive and supportive environment. 

The NZ wine industry is diverse and inclusive in many ways, not just gender.  This includes different nationalities, cultures, regions, different size organizations that also support each other and encompass age brackets.  As some of the original pioneers start taking a step back, they are supporting the next generation come through by sharing knowledge and mentoring.

Header Source: NZ Wine

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