Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ wire agency

Cheers to a bumper year of wine

Grape production of 345,000 tonnes is 5 per cent higher than the old record set in 2011.

Last summer's drought was disastrous for many farmers but for winegrowers, the conditions were near perfect. Photo / Thinkstock
Last summer's drought was disastrous for many farmers but for winegrowers, the conditions were near perfect. Photo / Thinkstock

Last summer's drought was disastrous for many farmers but for winegrowers, the near perfect growing conditions resulted in record production of 345,000 tonnes for the 2013 season.

The season, which ended in early May, marked a rise of 28.5 per cent on the very short 2012 crop and was 5 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2011, says the latest issue of Rabobank's Wine Quarterly.

Low carryover stock levels have meant that the export of 2013 sauvignon blanc had already started with "gusto", the report said.

Rabobank senior analyst Marc Soccio said the New Zealand wine industry was on a stronger footing to deal with the rebound in supply now that the New Zealand category was well established in key markets around the world.

Philip Gregan, chief executive of the 1000-member New Zealand Winegrowers, said the summer was terrible for pastoralists but "fantastic" for winegrowers.

He said the long, hot summer delivered the quality for the vintage and the December flowering season delivered the quantity.

But Gregan said consumers hoping for a return to the low prices of the 2008-9 wine glut could be disappointed. He said the supply imbalance since that time had been addressed and that this season would not result in an oversupply.

"All the signs are that the wines are going to be pretty fantastic," Gregan said. "They [consumers] are really going to see some spectacular wines out of this vintage."

Demand from overseas would determine pricing and Gregan said there had been a rise in wine prices over the past 12 months "and that's not going to disappear".

He said there was renewed optimism in the industry, helped along by a more exporter-friendly Kiwi dollar against the US dollar.

However, he said a New Zealand dollar at near five-year highs against the Aussie dollar was causing some concern because Australia was the country's biggest customer. In the year to May, wine exports were worth $1.2 billion with Australia being responsible for $368 million, or 30 per cent, of the total.

Rabobank said wine grape production in the Southern Hemisphere appeared to have been healthy.

"Nearly all major southern supply countries are set to register above-average crops for 2013, with Chile and South Africa also expected to harvest record crops, and Australia to record its largest harvest in five years," Soccio said.

New Zealand wine export volumes declined by 8 per cent in the first four months of the year as exporters waited for larger volumes from the 2013 vintage to come on stream.

- APNZ

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