Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Rabobank tips export growth for kiwi wines

The Craggy Range Winery in Hawkes Bay.
The Craggy Range Winery in Hawkes Bay.

Rising global demand for New Zealand wine points to further export growth for the industry this year, rural lending specialist Rabobank said.

The bank, in its latest quarterly report on the wine sector, said demand growth for New Zealand wine was expected to continue with the country's cool-climate wine styles and premium positioning remaining in favour in most major export markets.

Wine analyst Marc Soccio said consumers in major wine markets were willing to pay for more the lighter-bodied wines such as those produced in New Zealand. "And there is little evidence of this trend reversing any time soon," he said in the report.

On the supply side, 2016 production volumes of New Zealand wine grapes expected to be significantly higher than in 2015, he said.

"The volume of the 2016 vintage looks like it will be just right - it won't be too big, yet it also won't be too small for most companies entering the year with stocks erring on the tight side," Soccio said.

While there are a number of positives for the industry, there was some concern that the apparent upside is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of the country's largest producers, he said.

One of the key factors favouring New Zealand's larger producers was their ability to source suitable distribution in key growth markets and channels.

This was especially significant given the US, where distribution is so crucial to success, edged out Britain as New Zealand's largest export market in 2015, he said.

Early this month, New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the grape harvest was looking at a significant improvement on last year's grape harvest of 326,000 tonnes.

There had been good growing conditions in Marlborough - where most of the main export - sauvignon blanc - is grown. He said the smaller wineries around the country have enjoyed a boost from strong growth in the tourism sector.

Gregan said quality was looking good and the wine sector had been a big beneficiary of the NZ dollar's decline against the US dollar.

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