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April 2019

During our time New Zealand, we visited New Zealand’s largest and most famous wine growing region, Marlborough, as well as the world’s southernmost wine producing region, Central Otago! Here are our global comments on what we experienced.

key figures

Hectares of vines producing wine grapes in 2018: 37,969 (+2,7% vs 2017)

Sauvignon Blanc: 60,8% of the total producing area. More generally, white varieties account for 79,3% of the total producing area.

Red varieties: 20,7% of the total producing area among which 72% is Pinot Noir and 15% is Merlot.

Number of wineries in 2018: 697 (+2,9% vs 2017)

Annual harvest in 2018 (thousands of litres): 419 (+5,5% vs 2017)

Annual consumption (2017): 19,5L/capita

New Zealand is 16th in terms of wine production (2017 figures) but 7th in terms of exportation (in value)


The country’s productive vineyard area continues to grow, increasing by an additional 2% to reach 37,969 hectares in 2018. With 26,007 hectares, Marlborough is not only the most famous wine producing region of New Zealand but also the largest with 68,5% of the total producing area. Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago, with respectively 12% and 5% of the total producing area, are the second and third largest producing regions. However, due to historical planting rates in Marlborough as well as competition from alternate land use in other regions, vineyard development land is expected to dwindle.

July 2017 was an important milestone for New Zealand zine as the Geographical Indications Act 2006 came into force and 18 wine regions applied to register their wine region names. Not only do GIs help brand a product and differentiate it from other products in the market but in a time when Transparency and traceability are becoming increasingly important for consumers, they also assure that the product is authentic. This is particularly essential for regional identities overseas.

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New Zealand has a crisp, precise and clean wine style that’s fresh and young as many other countries from the New World.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the white wine grape variety that put New Zealand on the international wine map. Sauvignon Blanc was commercially produced for the first time in 1979 (Montana now Brancott Estate) but it was in 1985 that the Sauvignon Blanc Cloudy Bay Vineyard finally brought international attention: wine writer George Taber claimed that Cloudy Bay is “what many people consider to be the world's best Sauvignon Blanc”. It’s now New Zealand’s most widely planted variety as it represents 60,8% of the total producing area. This unique varietal is still New Zealand’s flagship and presents different profiles depending on the regions it comes from. After Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir has become New Zealand's second most planted variety. The beautiful Central Otago region produces some of the very best Pinot Noir with an intense colour, spices and plum flavours: we better understand why this grape variety takes up three-quarters of the vineyard area! But wineries have soon realized that they can’t only rely on Sauvignon Blanc and that other grape varieties deserved attention.


With a population of 4.75 million, New Zealand is a small but dynamic market with a real passion for wine growing. However, exports are vital to the success of the NZ wine industry and the country can count on its great reputation of premium, high-quality wine, especially on its Sauvignon Blanc wine. In the year ended June 2018, the value of New Zealand wine exports grew, for the 23rd year in a row, by 2.5% to reach $1.7 billion! Exports are estimated to account for almost 70% of industry revenue in 2018-19 and the USA, UK, Australia and Canada are their key export markets. Currently, Asian markets only account for 2,5% of NZ’s wine exports but the price obtained there is twice the average export price: we better understand why the next challenge for many wineries is to access these markets and in particular China! Not surprisingly, Sauvignon Blanc Wines are the mainstay amongst export markets as they account for 86% by volume of exports.

The main challenges faced by New Zealand wineries are therefore the strength of the NZ dollar as well as trade agreement with other markets. For instance, in June 2018, negotiations for a free trade agreement between New Zealand and the European Union began. However, in terms of national consumption, there’s a shift towards drinking more qualitative wines even though beers remain deeply rooted in national habits.


New Zealand’s wine industry is one of the youngest in the world and yet, we’ve been amazed by how well organized, branded and promoted this flourishing industry is. In terms of reputation, New Zealand is now known for producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world and in addition to that in a consistent and sustainable way. What’s more, as they know how difficult it is to stand out in this crowded marketplace, wineries find ways (sometimes even inexpensive ones) to connect directly with customers and attract them for direct sales. This industry benefits from a strong and efficient communication strategy that has been established by the wineries themselves as well as by national organization such as New Zealand Winegrowers. On a bigger scale, the wine industry benefits from a strong state support: for instance, in 2018, the New Zealand Winegrowers Research Center received a $12.5 million funds from the Ministry of Business.


What’s more, if you’re planning to visit cellar doors (one of the 243 existing), all the information is very easy to find online/on social media and each main regions even have its own website. Wine tourism is surging and attracting a growing number of high-value tourists to the wine producing regions. The cellar doors offer wine tasting experience, or more such as range of tours, accommodation, and food service. 27% of all holiday visitors to New Zealand visit a winery and those that do spend 52% more than average tourists, they stay longer, visit more regions and spend $3.8 billion in 2018!


We’ve been really impressed by New Zealand’s vineyards engagement towards environment. Indeed, 98% of New Zealand’s vineyards are certified under the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) programme. What’s more, more than 10% of New Zealand wineries are organic certified. These impressive figures reflect an increasingly environmental-friendly wine culture and the will to put in place efficient and sustainable practices: respecting the environment is natural for most of the wineries and is not even a question. They use water sustainably and fertilize sparingly when necessary. In winter, sheep walk along the vines and eat grass in-between rows.

In October 2018, The Drinks Business Green Awards 2018 (the world's largest programme to raise awareness of green issues in the drinks trade) chose the SWNZ programme as their Initiative of the Year. However, we must keep in mind that the vineyards are certified according to national standards: it’s difficult to put in perspective this certification with other national or global certifications.

As in other countries, climate change in New Zealand can be observed through shorter growing season (therefore harvests are sooner - they’ve to pick up grapes earlier), more extreme climate events and less predictable weather patterns. For instance, in 2017 and 2018, New Zealand was impacted by tropical cyclones. In 2019 was the earliest harvest ever due to a very hot summer. The main issues for vineyards in New Zealand are frost as well as drought. To fight against frost, a good solution is to plant vines on hills or on a site with a nice slope: site selection is therefore key! Or vineyards can rely on frost fans and sometimes, some of the them even fly helicopters over the vines to push warm air down (but it’s expensive and not really environmental-friendly..).

Vineyards seem concerned by this climate change and decide to resort to sustainable practices to reduce their impact on their environment. What’s more, a few have started to plant Shiraz, a grape variety that could do well in the future if the climate keeps warming up.

women in the wine industry

Being a woman in New Zealand doesn't seem to be something that matters when it comes to the wine industry: it's not a criteria of selection. We used to typically see women in marketing and sales whereas now they’re getting their hands dirty, making wines, growing grapes and doing the fun work instead of only pushing the final products: they’re now fully integrated in all the sides of the industry. Women are particularly present in the administrative staff but also in the winery and cellar door. However, it's still quite masculine in the vines and there are fewer woman viticulturists.

As the industry is still quite young, expanding and developing itself, it doesn't suffer from old clichés and women are perceived as capable as men to get the job done. They can also rely on the powerful Women in Wine initiative with group in every region, meetings and networking events.


Bernard Douvry, Georges Marais, Florence et Emmanuel Ramé, Florence et Jérome Dubar, Sabine Marais, Brigitte et Jean-Benoit Ramé, Marie-Christine Douvry, Molly Breiner, Anne-Sophie Klimczak, Lyssiar Oriwen, Astrid Massot, Juliette Leroy, Walfroy Dauchy, Sylvain Dubar, Antoine Rogeau, Tanguy Le Quilliec, Agathe Houssin, Mauricette et André Michel, Gillian Goulart, Ianja Rabenasolo,Valentine Burban, Delphine Héran, Valentine Ramé, Éléonore de Marnhac, Barthélemy Héran, Mathilde Perruchot, Jules Veyrat et Lise Riesen, Juliette Pinget, Juliette Dubar, Pablo Veyrat, Holly Bolgar, Jérémy Cerf, Phoebé de Sousa Passos, Emmanuelle Guisln, Charlotte Fliche, Mathilde Nike, Matthieu Giudicelli, Edouard Dollfus, Perrine Mathieu, Marie Altmayer, Romain Brissonneau, Valentine Bono, Yvan de la Baume, Maxence Béguin, Lydia Bellahouel, Aurélie Bergeras, Grégoire Leroy, Eloi Marquet de Vasselot, Agathe Guérin, Margaux Nuyts, Angèle de Leusse, Jean-Baptiste Mulliez, Mathilde Halpern, Diane Bunod, Blandine Charveriat, Marie Robaczewski, Clémentine Mittelman, Marie Delavoie, Holly Quintard, Chloé Peugeot et Antoine Charlent ! 

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Many thanks to our friends, families and supporters who decided to support us in our adventure!

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