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NATIONAL LIQUOR NEWS NOVEMBER 2016 | 49
By 2020 our friends across the ditch
want to be exporting $2 billion
worth of wine each year -- and with
the Australian market still one of the
largest markets, we're a big part of the strategy.
But things aren't all rosy for New Zealand
wine in Australia. While volumes are up
(hitting 5k litres 2015) the price per litre has
dropped dramatically, falling from an average
of $10.01/litre in 2008 to $6.30/litre in 2015.
In other words, while plenty of wine is heading
our way, the values have dropped considerably.
But with a big 2016 vintage just completed,
and rampant demand for nearly every other
Kiwi wine export market, it sounds like the dip
in value might just be a speed bump.
MAGICAL 2016 AND BEYOND
For many producers, it is still a little too early for
sweeping judgments on the quality of the vintage,
with plenty of red wines going through malolactic
fermentation. Still, it's not hard to hear the
enthusiasm when you talk to winemakers.
In Marlborough, arguably the most
important wine region in New Zealand, the
expectations are high after a small crop in 2015
set many wineries back.
Indeed it was an unsettled start to the season,
as Villa Maria Senior Marlborough Winemaker
Helen Morrison explained: "The cool weather
during our spring months delayed the 2016
harvest. However, Marlborough was blessed
with an Indian summer due to the El Niño
weather patterns; sunshine, dry conditions, with
cool night temperatures throughout April."
Ivan Sutherland, Co-Founder of Dog
Point Vineyards in Marlborough, echoed this
sentiment calling it an "amazing summer --
perfect for holiday makers and vineyards".
There might be some slight style changes this
year however, as Sutherland explained: "Above
average temperatures in February and March
meant that we picked fruit earlier than normal,
resulting in slightly lower alcohol levels... but
still with our characteristic fresh minerality,
strong citrus and lingering acidity."
Giesen Chief Winemaker Nikolai St George
called 2016 a "luxury" with a harvest that
didn't pit winemakers against the elements.
If you're looking for a standout variety from
the vintage, then Yealands General Manager
of Winemaking Jeff Fyfe thinks it could be
Sauvignon Blanc: "I think the Sauvignon Blancs
are looking great. They have good concentration
and texture with lovely mineral acidity."
Although there were reports of Botrytis in
some vineyards, the vintage positivity extends
Further south in North Canterbury, Pegasus
Bay General Manager Paul Donaldson is full
of praise for 2016 too: "Quality-wise in North
Canterbury it was amazing.
"The slightly higher than average crops took a
little longer to ripen, but the weather was so good
that disease was not a problem, and the extended
hang time seemed to give extra physiological
ripeness, so a greater depth of flavour and varietal
character," explained Donaldson.
"I have heard this was largely the same
across New Zealand. Pretty much every variety
we have seemed to perform well in 2016, and
that's not just marketing speak."
Even further south in Central Otago, 2016
will go down as one of the shortest and most
intense harvests in the region's history, with
grapes taking longer to ripen than normal and
then finishing up all at once, creating a challenge
for both grape growers and winemakers.
While this delivered some challenges, it
appears that Pinot Noir looks to be a serious
standout, as James Dicey, President of the
Central Otago Winegrowers Association noted,
Pinot Noir vines react best when under pressure.
"They seem to throw all of their energy into
the grapes when they are under mild duress.
The growing season certainly delivered the
ingredients for this -- the driest year in 56 years,
lots of wind and then some big drops of rain at
some inopportune moments."
This vintage, the key to success was all
about careful vineyard management, and that
is one thing that Central Otago producers are
mastering, as Dicey explains: "As we grow in
our understanding of our climate and how our
vines relate, we are getting better at moderating
the level of stress the vines receive (to produce
Enthusiasm for this warm and dry Central
Otago vintage is high, with early signs suggesting
that 2016 will be a particular standout for
full-flavoured reds in Central Otago, with lower
acidity and intense flavours. Keep an eye out for
those 2016 Central Otago Pinots.
Of course, it wasn't all beer and skittles in
2016, however, with some regions reporting a
more variable vintage.
In Martinborough, for example, a
devastating mid-summer frost caused
considerable damage, as Martinborough
Vineyard Winemaker Paul Mason explains:
"Yields were fine near (Martinborough) town
but out on the Te Muna Road terraces there
was a heavy frost on December 31. It was very
late and was really quite devastating."
According to Mason, some vineyards lost
up to 30 per cent of their crop, which meant
that yields across the region were notably
variable. Thankfully, only patches of vineyards
were affected, and on the whole enthusiasm
in Martinborough is very high indeed --
particularly for red wines.
There is change afoot at Martinborough
Vineyard too, with the first releases under
the new owners -- American businessman and
Vigneron Bill Foley's business, Foley Family
Wines -- filtering out into the market now.
Featuring a light label refresh, the new
vintage Te Tera Pinot Noir is proving extremely
popular as an entry point into the world of
Martinborough Pinot, the 'standard' 2013
Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir is also
Things are also on the up at another
Martinborough producer that is now part of
the Foley Family Vineyards portfolio, with Te
Kairanga enjoying a new lease on life.
Te Kairanga welcomed ex-Neudorf
Vineyards Winemaker John Kavanagh as Chief
Winemaker a few years back. This new blood,
plus some welcome financial stability, has
helped to improve the quality of the wines after
many years in the wilderness.
Staying in Martinborough, Escarpment is
tapping into the rampant Pinot Noir demand
and will be bringing forward the bottling of its
2016 'The Edge' Pinot Noir this year, simply
because they cannot keep up with demand for
this over-performing AUD$24.99 Pinot Noir.
AND SAUVIGNON BLANC
Speaking of Pinot Noir, it's hard to
underestimate just how dominant this variety
remains in the world of premium New Zealand
wine. Pinot Noir kicks the goals on the New
Zealand red wine front, and Sauvignon Blanc
wins in the whites. The Kiwi double punch.
But what's next in the world of New Zealand
wine beyond Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir?
For some big name Marlborough producers,
the decision has been made to head in a pink
direction, capitalising on the increasing appetite
for Rosé with a clutch of new releases.
At Mud House they've come up with what is
a rather cheeky new blend that cleverly cashes in
on Sauvignon Blanc's popularity with a twist.
Due for release in November, the Ta Ku Pink
is a blend of 94 per cent Sauvignon Blanc and
six per cent Pinot Noir that, according to Mud
House Winemaker Cleighten Cornelius, may
help to make more of a special occasion wine.
"[Ta Ku] tastes just like Sauvignon Blanc,
but offers an interesting point of difference
with its splash of colour, which will also help it
stand out on shelf," he said.
"This represents an opportunity to extend
the usage occasion for Sauvignon Blanc
consumption, as well as reinvigorate interest
in the Sauvignon Blanc category. This can only
translate well for our retailers."
Over at Giesen they're following a similar
train of thought, with the first vintage of a
Hawke's Bay Merlot based Rosé now in bottle.
According to Chief Winemaker Nikolai St
George, the decision to use Merlot was about
the grapes, "aromatics and generous, juicy
flavour profile". The wine is made more like a
white wine in a bid for freshness.
At Yealands Estate, they are taking a more
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