Wine fans can expect a bumper crop from most grape-growing regions this autumn.

Marlborough's harvesting will start with sparkling wine grapes about mid-March. The harvest of sauvignon blanc, the region's dominant grape, will begin about a fortnight later.

"It's looking like an absolute belter," said Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens, adding that a good sauvignon harvest was crucial to New Zealand's economy, export earnings and global wine reputation. "It really is New Zealand's biggest and most important grape variety by a long, long way."

He said there wasn't enough wine to meet demand in many local markets. "There is going to be some pressure on releasing wines into the market from July." He expected relatively stable prices despite high demand in the year ahead.


A warm summer means most of NZ will start the grape harvest earlier than last year.

The country's pinot noir capital of Central Otago is an exception. Central Otago Winegrowers Association president James Dicey said a cool spring and early summer meant a late March or early April start to picking the 1750ha of pinot noir grapes.

Vineyards had recovered from frosts in November and other cold spells in early summer but Dicey said pinot noir was likely to be 5 to 10 per cent down on last year. He said consumer feedback showed 2010 wines were favourites. "The 2010 vintage is becoming renowned as an exceptional vintage. 2011 is slightly more of an elegant perfumed vintage."

Vintage 2013 pinot noir will land in shops next year or 2015, depending on quality.

Entry-level wines spend nine months in oak, but pricier varieties could spend twice as long in barrels.