Historically, New Zealand has managed to hold a premium position in virtually all its export markets.
In Ireland and the UK bottle prices have averaged at around 30% more than those of its nearest competitors.
Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough continued to account for around 70% of New Zealand’s wine exports in 2008 but prices slipped a little, around 2% on average, but sliding a little more for some large volume producers.
Traditionally, New Zealand has maintained a delicate balance between supply and demand, almost always producing just a little less than its markets requested.
But New Zealand’s vineyard area has tripled to 30,000 hectares over the past decade and last year it had a bumper harvest of 285,000 tonnes. For the first time New Zealand had a noticeable glut of wine and it was this which caused the price fall.
It is likely that the current financial crisis will exacerbate this price softening. A recent report by Rabobank into the New Zealand wine industry has warned against rushing toward any more ill-considered new plantings for fear of a serious oversupply over the next few years.
New Zealand heeds the warnings
It appears that the warning was being heeded even as it was uttered. Harvest has only just got underway in New Zealand but it seems that many producers have carried out a well-timed green harvest to reduce volumes and, for consumers, this could have the pleasant side effect of even better wines from New Zealand this year.
As with every producing nation, New Zealand’s goal for 2009 will be to hold its market share. On the Irish market there appear to be fewer Bordeaux styles than there used to be but they have been getting better, especially in regard to ripeness. And we can expect to see more pinot noir, riesling and refreshing styles of pinot gris.
At the annual New Zealand tasting held this year at Dublin’s Radisson Royal, quality was noticeably good all round and what’s below is far from an exhaustive selection.
A few prices seem a little ambitious for the current climate but several importers indicated that, due to a fall in the New Zealand dollar, some bottles may be available a slightly less than current list prices. So if you’re ordering, it’s worth seeking out a decent deal!
Babich Marlborough Pinot Grigio 2007 (Ampersand €13). Lively, green apple flavours and a clean finish
Babich Reserve Black Label Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Ampersand €15). Gooseberry and kiwi fruit flavours in tasty rich style
Esk Hawkes Bay Riesling 2005 (Findlater Grant €16.99) Evolving style with mineral and petrol notes and soft, grapey fruit at the finish
Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Verdelho 2008 (Findlater Grant €16.99) One of the more interesting New World verdelhos on the market; green and stone fruit make it a good aperitif
Esk Valley Chenin Blanc 2007 (Findlater Grant €15.99) A bit fatter than usual this vintage, but with classic greeen fruit flavours and a hint of apricot
Hunters Marlborough Riesling 2008 (Gilbeys €19) Soft floral and green grape flavours with fine balancing acidity. Has the weight to evolve nicely
Hunters Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Gilbeys €18.99) Ripe but well defined gooseberry and bramley apple fruit
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Cassidy €14). Quite an easy style but is nicely balanced on the palate
Montana Gisborne Chardonnay 2007 (Irish Distillers €12) Firm, tasty citrus fruits with soft apricot beneath. Good value
Lawsons Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Febvre €14). Lime and cream flavours with a hint of asparagus to interest. Good wine for white fish
Lawsons Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008 (Febvre €17). Rich but with nicely balanced acidity; good with spicy food and also on its own
Huia Pinot Gris Marlborough 2008 (Searsons €14.75). Fresh yet with just a hint of cream and roses; very good concentration for the price
Villa Maria Gewurztraminer 2007 (Cassidy €17). Sound stuff, with classic rose and lychee flavours yet fine balancing acidity. Get out the Roquefort!
Yealands Estate Viognier Marlborough 2008 (Liberty €17). Floral and light toasty notes beautifully refreshed with fine, balancing acidity
Cloudy Bay Chardonnay Marlborough 2007 (Dillons €30) Dry lemon and toasty notes with refreshing acidity and decent length. Pricey, of course, but Cloudy Bay’s iconic status ensures that customers continue willing to pay the premium
Villa Maria Pinot Noir (Allied Drinks €22) Decent, berry fruit character; not hugely concentrated but enjoyable
Craggy Range Merlot Cabernet 2006 (Febvre €34). Lead pencil aromas and a touch of cedar on the palate give this its classic credentials. Elegant plum flavours with a hint of leafy blackcurrant
Babich Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 (Ampersand €15). Easy drinking pinot with nicely defined summer fruits; good value
Hunters Pinot Noir 2007 (Gilbeys €20) Young drinking with tasty dry berry character
Tinpot Hut Marlborough Syrah 2007 (Liberty €22) Lovely smoky streak, and nicely defined damson and black olive flavours; not hugely dense but this is from young vines and further vintages should see it getting chunkier
Delta Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 (Liberty €25) Decent structure underpins juicy berry and summer fruit; a lovely springtime treat which would go well with lamb
Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008 (Irish Distillers €19) Reasonable value, with easy yet classic fruit character
Montana Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 (Irish Distillers €14) Nicely structured summer fruit flavours and good for the price
Glazebrook Merlot Cabernet Hawkes Bay 2006 (Wines Direct €20). Lovely example of a cool climate Bordeaux blend. Well-defined fruit flavours and floral notes counter a slight leafy streak. Good value
Glazebrook Hawkes Bay Syrah 2006 (Wines Direct €20). Under screwcap but not a hint of reductiveness in a grape that can be prone to that fault if it’s not under cork. Hints of black olive beneath plum fruit; tasty and good value
Miru Miru Sparkling Marlborough 2005 (Gilbeys €24). Fine acidity lifts this above the ordinary and there are subtle yeasty notes. Good value
Huia Sparkling Marlborough 2001 (Searsons €25) Green fruit and soft biscuit notes; decent concentration for the money