New Zealand wine exports have rebounded to record levels as the wine growing industry continues its turnaround in fortunes.
Wine exports exceeded $1.3 billion annually for the first time in March, according to figures released by Statistics New Zealand - a 9.2 per cent increase from 12 months ago.
"We expect further strong growth in the year ahead when the 2014 vintage wines are released," New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said.
"The very robust export performance over the past 12 months reflects the continued demand in key markets and increased availability of the wine from the 2013 vintage," Gregan added.
2013 saw a record harvest of 345,000 tonnes of grapes, up significantly from the low 2012 harvest, and the 2014 vintage is being tipped by some local growers to be the best ever.
Gisborne winemaker Steve Voysey of Spade Oak Vineyard says the region's warm spring temperatures ensured excellent flowering, while the cool nights and warm days towards the end of January enhanced véraison (ripening).
"You know it's a legendary vintage when every tank in the place is chocca. I'm just loving what I'm seeing being caressed into wine, the ferment bench is a delight to taste through," Voysey said.
Last month, Hawke's Bay winegrower Hugh Crichton of Vidal Estate, tipped this year's Chardonnay crop to be the region's best ever vintage.
Wine is New Zealand's eighth biggest export good ($1.32 billion), just behind fish ($1.34 billion in annual export earnings) and crude oil exports ($1.38 billion), according to the March Overseas Merchandise Trade figures.