Kiwis celebrate a record export year

F or the New Zealand wine industry it’s a year of firsts – including some surprising record-breakers. The New Zealand Winegrowers stand will occupy an increased space at this year’s LIWF, even though the country’s industry as a whole is expected to harvest fewer grapes, make less wine and focus strongly on high quality.

While the New Zealand wine industry has now broken all export records, with NZ$1 billion exports announced late last year, New Zealand Winegrowers aims to have a reduced vintage this year. Exact numbers have yet to be determined by the body, but chief executive Philip Gregan hopes it will be in the vicinity of 265,000 tonnes; a drop from the 285,000 harvested for the past two consecutive years. Gregan will be at the New Zealand Winegrowers stand to give an update on the 2010 vintage.

A key focus this year will be the regional diversity of NZ Pinot Noir. As UK journalists and buyers were able to witness at the fourth annual New Zealand Pinot Noir 2010 conference in February, the country’s wine industry has taken large steps forward with Pinot Noir in the past half decade. Greater vine age nationwide, better understanding of and focus on vineyard sites, together with improved winemaking skills are all resulting in better Pinot Noirs.

New Zealand Syrah has all guns blazing when it comes to the taste and the PR excitement this has generated, but actual numbers are still relatively small. Like many noble grape varieties, Syrah has grown rapidly over the past decade. However, it is still minuscule in terms of overall numbers in the New Zealand national vineyard. In 2000 there were 62ha producing Syrah in New Zealand, compared with 278ha this year.

The quality is making many sit up and take notice, including OLN’s Tim Atkin MW. “I can’t remember the last time I was as impressed by a Syrah from outside the Rhône Valley,” Atkin was quoted as saying, in reference to a wine from New Zealand’s Waiheke Island, after the New Zealand Syrah Symposium in Hawkes Bay in January 2010. Stand F20?The largest New Zealand wine company, Pernod Ricard New Zealand, will be represented by its biggest brand, Montana. The trade will be able to taste a variety of wines from Montana’s new varietal innovation series, including Arneis and Viognier from Gisborne – and a very recently released Sauvignon Gris from Marlborough. The latter will be available in the UK in limited quantities from September. Stand F20??Leeds-based wine importer Bottle Green has joined forces with NZ producer Goldridge Estate, which is based in Matakana, an hour’s drive north of Auckland. Goldridge Estate produces two ranges of wines: Goldridge Estate and Goldridge Estate Premium Reserve. Both include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Riesling from Malborough; Pinot Gris and Syrah from Matakana; Merlot and Chardonnay from Hawkes Bay and Chardonnay from Gisborne.

“Our partnership with Goldridge Estate is the culmination of years searching for a New Zealand partner who had the right combination of scale, ambition, brand-building ethos and, above all, wine quality to enable us to really make a difference in the UK market,” says Adam Marshall, commercial director at Bottle Green. Stand L70 ?Ara is unique in more ways than one. Its site on a single vineyard on an old raised river terrace forms a naturally defined zone within Marlborough.

The soils are similar to those found in parts of Bordeaux and the Rhône, according to chief viticulturist Dr Damian Martin, who has implemented a close-planted vine system and reduced yields.

It’s early days but the company’s Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs show stylistic differences between each other and as distinct from other Marlborough wines. The 2008 Composite Pinot Noir and 2009 Resolute Sauvignon Blanc will be on taste. Ara chief executive Christine Pears will be with NZWG at stand F20 and with DGB Europe at stand H40??Central Otago-based estate Gibbston Highgate will join New Zealand Winegrowers with a range of wines for tasting. Among them is Soultaker Pinot Noir, an unfiltered red made from grapes grown with minimal intervention and according to sustainable practices. Stand F20