NZ wine: dry white

Adverse climate conditions across New Zealand will see the overall wine grape harvest down about 1 per cent – but that’s actually worse than it looks because more mature plantings should have generated higher products.

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Weather hit a number of New Zealand’s wine growing regions at various times throughout the growing season, cutting the harvesting volumes for grapes.

"The weak harvest for Marlborough made a significant contribution to the fall in national production.”

While the overall harvest is estimated to be down just 1 per cent on 2018, based on data collected by NZ Wine Growers, with more vines reaching productive age, the harvest had the potential to be higher.

Marlborough was impacted by very dry conditions leading up to harvest with growers struggling to provide enough water to vines during the hot summer months with high levels of evaporation. Moreover, water restrictions meant some growers simply didn’t have access to sufficient water.

The result was 2 per cent less grapes harvested in Marlborough compared with the previous season. For some growers the impact was significantly worse than the regional average.

Marlborough is New Zealand’s largest wine-producing region, accounting for approximately 75 per cent of the wine produced, so the weak harvest for Marlborough made a significant contribution to the fall in national production.

Despite the poor harvest, the quantity of Sauvignon Blanc produced in Marlborough this year is estimated to be 1 per cent higher, while national production of this iconic variety lifted 2 per cent.

Meanwhile, many wine makers in Wairarapa experienced a quiet harvest as frost damage earlier in the season slashed grape production for some vineyards. The area struck by frost was localised, so production varied considerably from vineyard to vineyard, but the regional figures indicate production fell by an estimated 4 per cent.

Hawke’s Bay production was also down 9 per cent, which primarily impacted Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot production, the predominant varieties grown in this region. But the 2019 vintage is being hailed as one of the best, so what was lost in volume may be made up in price.

White or red?

Export returns have steadily increased with prices received in the past 12 months continuing to lift. Export data shows a 9 cents per litre increase in the average price in the year to May 2019. Stronger prices were attained, on average, in all three of New Zealand’s main export markets (the UK, US and Australia).

Of the wine exported in the 12 months to May, 93 per cent of this was white varieties, primarily Sauvignon Blanc. 

Prices paid for wine at the grower level are expected to be relatively stable looking forward and the area of land hosting productive grapes is starting to stabilise too. The area of land in vines of a productive age is expected to continue to increase slowly for the next few years as vines planted earlier come on stream. Sauvignon Blanc production is expected to grow at approximately 1 per cent for the next couple of vintages.

Susan Kilsby is NZ Agriculture Economist & Sharon Zollner is NZ Chief Economist at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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