The New Zealand 2022 vintage is tipped to be worth NZ$1billion, with vintners hoping for a larger harvest than previous years.

Continued international demand for Kiwi wine was compounded by 2021’s smaller harvest, which represented a decline of some 19 per cent on the previous year, meaning wineries were required to draw down on stocks to maintain market position.

Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, is hoping that a larger 2022 harvest will balance the scales.

“New Zealand wine sales for 2021 were 324 million litres, meaning that they were 48 million litres more than was actually produced in the 2021 vintage,” Gregan said.

“We desperately need a bigger harvest in 2022, to replenish cellars, and help satisfy international demand.”

The shortage of stock has meant that New Zealand wineries have had to make difficult decisions about what markets they are able to supply, Gregan says.

“For some wineries, there has been quite simply just not enough wine to go around.”

High demand is, to some extent, a good problem to have, as Gregan outlines.

“Encouragingly, the ongoing demand for New Zealand wine has proven, once again, that the distinctive flavours, quality and sustainability of our wines increasingly resonate with customers around the world.”

“It is positive to see that during these uncertain times, consumers continue to choose a premium product they know that they can trust.”

Indeed, New Zealand’s 2021 wine exports fell by only three per cent, to NZ$1.95billion, when compared to 2020, despite a fall of 19 per cent in production.

Like many industries around the world, the Kiwi wine business has had to weather the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and supply chain issues.

Domestic restrictions have meant that wineries that sell through tourism and hospitality have suffered significantly, as Gregan says.

“Cellar doors have been hit hard by the collapse in international tourist numbers over the past two years. Positively, we have seen more New Zealanders visiting cellar doors, but there are long, lean periods as we move out of the traditional Kiwi holiday period.”

With New Zealand operating some of the strictest border measures anywhere in the world, winemakers have had to contend with the loss of international arrivals, a considerable source of seasonal labour.

“The unavailability of skilled workers due to the ongoing closure of New Zealand’s borders means undoubtedly this vintage will be more difficult to manage than normal,” Gregan says.

With the omicron variant now spreading in the community, Kiwi winemakers face renewed challenges, though the experiences of 2020 and 2021 mean that vineyards are more prepared than ever.

“Over the past two years, wineries and growers have proven that they can manage the threat of COVID well, continue to operate effectively, and adapt processes to ensure they protect workers and other New Zealanders,” Gregan says.

“Our industry’s most important priority continues to be keeping our people and our communities safe during this uncertain time. We are looking forward to another harvest of excellent quality, and believe an optimistic approach and helping one another will get us through.”

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