22 Feb 2009

Winegrowers remain upbeat about exports in recession

9:43 pm on 22 February 2009

The national winegrowers' organisation remains upbeat about the outlook for New Zealand exports, despite the drop in world wine sales as the recession bites.

The annual grape harvest starts this week, with early varieties being picked in the Gisborne area.

New Zealand Winegrowers is forecasting a 10,000 tonne reduction in the harvest this year, as vineyards trim back their crops to avoid a glut of wine going onto the market.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan says there are likely to be more grapes left unharvested this year as well, as part of wineries' efforts to balance supply and demand.

He says it's too early to know what longer term impact the recession might have on sales, but he says it also offers opportunities for New Zealand wine exports.

Mr Gregan says the euro has risen strongly which will lift the price of European wines in markets such as the UK and USA.

He says that should be to New Zealand's advantage because its currency tends to weaken, rather than strengthen, against the currencies of the markets into which it's selling.

Mr Gregan says New Zealand's main grape variety, sauvignon blanc, is expected to be down slightly this year as vineyards trim back their crops.

But he's expecting increased production of red varieties such as cabinet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, which got hit by frosts in Hawke's Bay last year.