Room for optimism

Despite New Zealand hitting the headlines last year for some of its brands entering into deep discounting, David Cox, European director of New Zealand Winegrowers, remains optimistic.

“We saw promotions that were in and out in two weeks. We’re not surrendering our premium position – Nielsen says we’re averaging £6.25 a bottle at the moment and we want to retain that,” he says.

This year’s annual trade tasting will see 105 producers showing 670 wines. The generic body says it’s the largest commercial tasting of New Zealand wines anywhere in the world.

A number of unusual varieties will be shown on its new Tables of the Unexpected, including an Arneis from Gisborne and a Verdelho from Hawke’s Bay.

A new agreement with the EU allowing it to import sweet wines into the UK will be celebrated with 18 late harvest, botrytised and ice wines available to taste.

Cox says: “We have known for some time that our sweet wines offer a fantastic alternative to established Old and New World stickies and their availability now creates wonderful new opportunities, especially in the independent retail sector.”?Wineries will also be showing their green credentials in the form of bottle stickers. These will show whether they are fully accredited or working towards accreditation in sustainable winegrowing, organic and biodynamic?s.

Thierry’s has expanded its New Zealand portfolio and taken on the new “ultra-premium” Tiki range from McKean Estates in Marlborough’s Wairau Alpine Valley. The company is also launching its own Four Ships label, in conjunction with Marlborough-based Wairau River Wines and another label, Mistletoe Bay, from Marlborough. Thierry’s buying director Dominique Vrigneau says: “Despite tough economic conditions, New Zealand has managed to grow its market share in the UK consistently. Brand New Zealand? and, in particular, brand Marlborough, both have an extremely strong consumer franchise. This is a very exciting time to be involved in New Zealand wine with the 2009 vintage promising to be the best vintage ever for consistent quality across all the variet?ies.” ?PLB will showcase new releases from Grove Mill, including its single vineyard series at an rrp of £11.99 – aimed at indies – and its late-harvest Gewürz­traminer 2006. This is the first sweet of its kind from Grove Mill. A selection of wines from just-signed Sacred Hill will also be on taste.

Winegrowers of Ara will show its portfolio of Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs from the “classic Marlborough” Pathway range, its Composite wines? and the single block Resolute wines.

Crush Wines will be launching Thatched Hut’s range of premium wines as part of its first foray into New Zealand.

John Buchanan, owner of Mount Riley wines, will unveilnew branding and packaging. The portfolio consists of four tiers of wines and the Mount Riley Estate range will be the first to be relaunched.

Stratford’s Wine Agencies is presenting new vintages from family-owned Distant Land, which is aiming to be fully sustainable by 2011’s vintage, and the new Driving Stream Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, with an rrp of £9.99.

Biodynamic winery Urlar is the latest addition to Enotria’s portfolio and will be joining Trinity Hill, Lawson’s Dry Hills and Quartz Reef at the tasting.

Chalié Richards will launch a number of new products from the family-run Seifried Estate Winery. Included are the Sweet Agnes Riesling 2008, the first Würzer from New Zealand, and the newly? acquired Aotea Sauvignon Blanc. Also on taste is the new Rabbit Island Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2009, which, at an rrp of £5.99, represents a new price point for the Chalié Richards NZ portfolio. Old Coach Road will be showing the 2009 vintage of its Sauvignon Blanc?, unoaked Chardonnay 2008 and Pinot Noir 2008.

Mentzendorff will present a selection of wine from The Crossings and Southbank Estate, including the newly? released Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Rosé 2008.

Montana will be launching a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris on the Pernod Ricard UK stand. These will be previewed alongside the Sauvignon Blanc 2009 vintage and new varietal innovations Arneis and Viognier. Winemaker Patrick Materman will be at the tasting, together with the 2009 Masterchef winner Mat Follas, the newly-appointed brand ambassador for Montana.

Great Western Wine will present Carrick’s Pinot Noir from Central Otago and its new vintage Sauvignon. Christine Kernohan, from Gladstone Vineyards in Wairarapa, will? show her new vintages of Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

Cape Campbell Wines will be showing its Lobster Reef and Lobster Reef Blind River Home Block brands for the first time in the UK, as well as its Cape Campbell and Cable Station ranges.

Villa Maria Estate will be showcasing new wines, including Villa Maria Private Bin Syrah Viognier 2005 and Villa Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Viognier 2007 – the first single varietal Viognier from Villa Maria released in the UK.

Esk Valley will have its full range of wines on taste, including The Terraces 2006. Its Black Label range has been replaced with lighter packaging and has been renamed Vineyard Selection, and the new-look Reserve is now known as Winemakers.

Liberty Wines is showing the debut release from Greywacke – the new solo venture of Kevin Judd, chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay for 25 vintages.

Clink Wines and Matt Thomson, founder of Kiwi-Oeno, will be launching the Paddler which will focus on popular variet?ies not readily available from? the country. The Realm will also be on show, which is an off-trade exclusive mid-range offering.

McKinley Vintners will present? newly? packaged ranges from Alpha Domus in Hawkes Bay alongside Mount Dottrel from Central Otago. Alpha Domus’s the Pilot Leonarda Late Harvest Semillon 2008 will also be on taste (rrp £8.99 per half?-bottle).

Wines from New Zealand’s youngest wine region – Cheviot Hills in North Canterbury – will be presented by Mt Beautiful’s new distribution partner Genesis Wines. The 2009 Sauvignon Blanc has not yet been released, but there will be a sneak preview alongside the current 2008 vintage.