2013-04-09 19.17.37

V13: Return to Normal Yields Welcomed by All

New Zealand, Marlborough Vintage Report 2013

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]igures and thoughts about the 2013 New Zealand grape harvest are beginning to circulate, and for all intents and purposes it is wholesome news for all concerned. Yesterday New Zealand Wine Growers released data from their annual Vintage Survey detailing information on regions and varieties across the country. It is a record harvest for the country with a total of 345,000 tonnes of grapes harvested which is up 28% on the painfully small 2012 harvest and up 5% on the 2011 harvest indicating it is essentially an average national tonnage.

“…we expect the 2013 wines to be vibrant, fruit driven and complex expressions of our diverse grape growing regions. 2013 looks set to be a vintage to remember.” – Philip Gregan, NZWG

Marlborough happily yielded 251,680 tonnes, up 33% on last year and up 2.7% on 2011. This was in line with what most of the local wine industry predicted – the same or slightly above 2011 yields. What we are seeing here is purely vintage variation as the region has reached its limits in terms of viable land for planting. Marlborough is extremely fortunate in the fact that it is a very well defined region due to geography – mountains to the North and to the South, the Pacific Ocean to the East, and the frost-ridden, damp extremity of the Wairau Valley to the West have ensured that since 2009, there has been no relative increase in plantings. Of course the economic climate and the oversupply issues have compounded this. At an estimate, approximately 10% of land in the Wairau Valley is left and theoretically could be planted, though I opine landholders of these titles are largely entrenched in a pre-viticultural Marlborough era.

210,000 tonnes of the Marlborough harvest was Sauvignon Blanc, reifying the region’s title as most salient Sauvignon producer in the country with 92% of national production. The Pinot Noir crop followed in volume, which indicates the increasing significance of the variety in the area, with 17,300 tonnes harvested – this was just over half of New Zealand’s production of 31,775 tonnes. Chardonnay vines meanwhile bore 10,100 tonnes this year.

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]EO of New Zealand Wine Growers Philip Gregan addressed a crowd of several hundred in Blenheim yesterday to announce these figures, and the mood was certainly the most upbeat it has been in recent times. Producers are buoyant that there is enough product this year to satisfy the outstanding demand from last year and the 20% year-on-year growth. Growers are breathing deep sighs of relief as grape prices steadily ascend although they sit significant shy of pre-2008 levels. The district average grape price (for Sauvignon Blanc) hovers around $1650 / tonne today, where historically it was as high as $2,500/tonne. Still this is a marked improvement on the previous 4-5 year period. Offshore, importers can perhaps not wince as much as they realise our dollar is proceeding into an enigmatic downward phase against the Sterling, Euro(?!) and Greenback et al; and that there is more product out there to cater to international demand.

Touching on the rest of New Zealand’s major regions: Hawkes Bay’s 38,829 tonne strong harvest was up 18% on 2012, Gisborne processed virtually the same tonnage as last year at 15,567 tonnes (0% change), Central Otago handled 243 tonnes more than last year with 8,407 tonnes coming through the door (up 4%), and Nelson saw a 27% increase on 2012 with 7,777 tonnes. Waipara (7,652 tonnes) saw a 14% expansion on last year’s volume while the only region to report negative growth on 2012’s already small vintage was Auckland, processing just 431 tonnes of grapes (down 35% on 2012).

May tallied a record number for wine shipments, and Gregan was yesterday quick to point out he was confident there was no risk of a return to oversupply taking into account the growth in markets – particularly emerging markets in Asia, and strong growth in North America and Canada – and also the shortage of 2012 alongside the weakening New Zealand dollar.

Overall it is clear the wine industry has welcomed the return to more normal yields triggering a better-balanced supply that will expedite the continued demand for high-quality product. With price integrity restoring itself along the supply chain, we can expect to see the ‘ghost winery’ labels, so latterly conspicuous on foreign shelves, recede from view and a more confident outlook on the $1.2 billion New Zealand wine industry materialise.

New Zealand Wine Growers
2013 New Zealand Vintage Survey Data (Varieties and Regions)

 Varieties Harvested

2012

2013

Change

% Change

Sauvignon Blanc

181,121

228,781

47,660

26%

Pinot Noir

23,285

31,775

8,490

36%

Chardonnay

22,855

27,184

4,329

19%

Pinot Gris

15,347

22,042

6,695

44%

Merlot

8,046

10,076

2,031

25%

Riesling

4,989

5,932

943

19%

Syrah

1,431

2,240

809

57%

Gewurztraminer

1,249

1,788

540

43%

Cabernet Sauvignon

1,120

1,465

345

31%

 

Wine Regions

2012

2013

Change

% Change

Northland

92

130

38

41%

Auckland

1,220

789

-431

-35%

Waikato

7

12

5

77%

Gisborne

15,590

15,567

-24

0%

Hawke’s Bay

32,793

38,829

6,036

18%

Wairarapa

4,271

4,798

527

12%

Marlborough

188,649

251,680

63,032

33%

Nelson

6,129

7,777

1,648

27%

Waipara

6,697

7,652

955

14%

Canterbury

382

695

314

82%

Central Otago

8,115

8,407

293

4%