26 May 2009

Avoiding glut key to maintaining prices - wine judge

10:44 pm on 26 May 2009

An Australian winemaker and judge believes the New Zealand industry's move to trim its harvest to avoid a glut is wise.

International wine judge and fifth-generation family winemaker Bill Hardy is a guest judge for the International Chardonnay Challenge in Gisborne on Wednesday.

Mr Hardy says over-production is the biggest single issue confronting the international wine industry and he agrees with the coordinated industry approach taken in New Zealand.

He says New Zealand gets more money per litre of wine going into the British market than any other country, and any oversupply would drive that price down.

New Zealand's national winegrower organisation set the target of a 10,000-tonne reduction in the grape harvest this year, by thinning the crop and leaving some grapes unpicked.

Mr Hardy says changing trends in wine is one reason Australia's exports are declining, and it is a situation New Zealand also needs to be aware of.

He says the Australian wine industry has cut back on production for three years due to the international wine glut but its export sales are continuing to shrink, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Mr Hardy says as wine preferences change, the industry needs to be wary of relying too much on one variety, with sauvignon blanc still making up almost 80% of New Zealand's exports.