Whilst much of the wine producing world will go into 2018 scratching its collective head worrying about whether it has enough wine to supply its growing markets, and at the prices they want, New Zealand is looking to build on what has been an impressive 2017 with hopes of another good harvest ahead. All of which sets up January’s annual tasting very nicely indeed, as Chris Stroud, marketing manager for UK and European for New Zealand Winegrowers, explains.
With the highest average price points in the off-trade and second highest in the on-trade it’s not surprising New Zealand’s best days still lie ahead of it.
Can you look back on 2017 and reflect on how the year has gone in terms of reaching objectives and goals?
2017 was very successful for New Zealand wines in the UK market. The UK is New Zealand’s largest export market by volume and second in terms of value. New Zealand wines continue to grow at an impressive rate in the UK market, with over 15% growth in volume and 14% in value according to the latest Nielsen Scantrack data (we-7-10-17). New Zealand still has the highest average price of any country at £7.10, well above the national average of £5.57.
In the on-trade too, New Zealand is also performing strongly with 9% growth by volume and up 17% by value, and it also has the second highest average price in the market (WSTA 2017 Q4 Quarterly Report).
Globally, New Zealand wine exports have reached a new record high of $1.66 billion, up 6% in June year end 2017 and wine is New Zealand’s 5th largest export good and is now exported to over 90 countries. We remain on track to hit our export goal of $2bn exports by 2020.
What have been the highlights behind that story?
We brought nearly 100 trade and media from around the globe to New Zealand (29 of these from UK and Europe) – the vast majority of whom attended Pinot Noir NZ 2017 in Wellington in January. Alongside this we hosted two symposium for Aromatics in Nelson and Classic Reds in Hawke’s Bay. There was 100% satisfaction from our visitors for those events.
Closer to home we held a number of seminars and masterclasses – some aimed specifically for the sommelier community delivered by sommeliers. We have extended the Sommelier Scholarship programme and eight sommeliers from across Europe will be visiting New Zealand in 2018 – five of whom are from the UK and Ireland.
What are the biggest challenges going into 2018?
In the UK, the uncertainty over Brexit has hit exchange rates and that will continue to cause uncertainty and price rises – although that will happen to everyone. It was welcome news from the Chancellor to put a freeze on duty this year.
Brexit could also signal an opportunity for New Zealand wine in the medium term with a potential trade deal following the UK’s impending exit from the EU.
With global supplies down and prices going up because of supply and demand where is New Zealand in its production cycle? How are prices compared to previous years?
Given our reputation and price points we don’t see that macro global supply changes have a big impact on our business . In terms of the New Zealand situation we are seeing continuing strong demand in our key markets which is incredibly positive.
What are the predictions for 2018 harvest?
It’s way too early to say, but the early season has been very positive and is generally running ahead of ‘normal’. Overall we expect the industry will be looking for a larger crop this year given rising sales levels.
How does New Zealand see the UK in relation to rest of Europe and also to rest of the world ?
The UK is one of New Zealand’s oldest markets and remains very important. New Zealand wines continue to grow here in both volume and value terms. The competitive nature of the UK market does mean that there are other countries that can deliver more value. In the US for example New Zealand is now the third largest imported country by value – behind Italy and France. However, in all of our markets around the world New Zealand wines have the highest or second highest average price showing the premium nature of our wines.
We will always look to new markets to achieve our export goals and over the past 18 months we have held events in Ireland, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden and Denmark as well as across the UK and in 2018 we will continue to look at the opportunities in other markets.
As well as London, we have offices in the US, Canada, Asia and Australia so all of these markets are important if we are to reach our export targets.
What are your priorities/main targets in the UK?
A key priority is to increase the presence of New Zealand wines in the on-trade. New Zealand wines are tailor made for food and so I’d like to see more New Zealand wines on restaurant wine lists.
The independent sector is another area where New Zealand is strong and is perfect to showcase the diversity New Zealand has to offer. We will be running an independent promotion in May 2018 where participating retailers can win a trip to Sauvignon Celebrations in New Zealand in 2019
I’d like to run more education and focused tastings across the country to show more trade the qualities New Zealand wine can offer to increase listings in both the on and off trade.
Premium on-trade is a key asset for New Zealand. Which styles and price points do you think New Zealand is particularly performing well in?
Definitely New Zealand sits at the premium end of the market and as we have discussed has the second highest average price in the on-trade sector. In terms of styles, Sauvignon Blanc is obviously New Zealand’s biggest success story and while it is hard to generalise, it often sits at the higher price points on a wine list at around £20-25 a bottle or £6-8 by the glass.
Pinot Noir is also a popular wine style for restaurants – and New Zealand offers great value in that regard again at the higher end of restaurant wine lists.
What advice would you give on-trade buyers/sommeliers about getting the most out of their New Zealand offer in terms of styles and price points and areas to explore?
Given the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc in this market, it is essential for all venues to have at least one on their list, but really there is a real opportunity here for sommeliers and on-trade buyers to take advantage of the Sauvignon Blanc success, and look to showcase alternative styles of Sauvignon at different price points – from different regions or barrel influenced styles for example.
There is also an opportunity to highlight other varieties such as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and emerging styles such as Albarino, Gruner Veltiner, Chenin Blanc, Viognier amongst others. Pinot Noir is our main red and there is no reason why there couldn’t be more than one example on a wine list to highlight different regional expressions. Fuller bodied reds are also an unsung hero for New Zealand with Syrah.
In general, there are a wide range of wines and varieties across all price points and the nature of New Zealand wines with its cool climate resulting in well balanced and expressive wines, ensure they are great to match with a wide variety of cuisines.
Tell us about your tasting in January what can we expect?
The event is themed Flavours of New Zealand. To highlight this theme we will be holding small focused seminars to explore the different varieties and styles New Zealand has to offer. Led by Peter McCombie MW and Rebecca Gibb MW these short 30 minute seminars will include Diversity of Sauvignon Blanc, Unexpected Varieties, Different Shades of Pinot, and Classic Reds.
Another new feature will be The Masters Selection table. Fifteen Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers from around the world, who have visited New Zealand recently, were asked to nominate their top three choices. Nearly 100 wines were nominated and from this list, sixteen wines have been selected to best showcase a wide range of styles, varieties and regions.
There will be over 100 producers showing nearly 450 wines from 10 regions and over 20 varieties and styles represented so lots to discover.
You have a new venue. Where is it and why have you changed?
We will be moving to County Hall on Westminster Bridge. We had been at Lindley Hall for a number of years and wanted to refresh the tasting this year. Its always good to change things from time to time!
Any particular highlights for buyers to look out for?
Lots! The seminars mentioned above will be a good opportunity to get a short but focussed look at particular styles. There are a number of wineries seeking representation in this market.
- You can register for the January tasting and see which wineries will be represented here.