The first grapes for the 2022 vintage have been harvested, with continued international demand and low stock levels meaning winemakers are hoping for a much larger harvest this year.
Last year’s crop, although of exceptional quality, was 19% lower than the previous year, said New Zealand Winegrowers managing director Philip Gregan.
This had forced wineries to dip into inventory to maintain their place in the market.
“New Zealand wine sales for 2021 were 324 million liters which means they were 48 million liters higher than what was actually produced in the 2021 vintage,” Gregan said.
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“This drop in stocks shows that we desperately need a larger harvest in 2022, to restock cellars and help meet international demand.”
Many wineries also faced tough decisions about who they could supply in their key markets, with the continued rise in international demand putting enormous pressure on already depleted stocks.
For some wineries, there wasn’t enough wine for everyone, Gregan said.
However, the continued demand for New Zealand wine had proven that its flavors, quality and durability resonated with international consumers.
Rising production costs and the continued effects of Covid-19 on the border, markets and supply chains have continued to impact the industry, and over the past year shortages Labor requirements have been a huge concern for many grape growers and wineries.
“The introduction of Omicron to the New Zealand community heading into the 2022 vintage is a very serious concern for producers and wineries, as this is our busiest time of year, and we are already facing severe labor shortages in some regions.
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“The unavailability of skilled workers due to New Zealand’s ongoing border closures no doubt means this vintage will be more difficult to manage than normal.”
Wine companies that sold primarily through the winery and tourism sectors also continued to suffer significant setbacks.
“Red light restrictions on hotel business operations are a major challenge for wineries dependent on this sector. The cellar doors have been hit hard by the collapse in international tourist numbers over the past two years.
“Positively we have seen more New Zealanders visiting the cellar doors, but there are long lean periods as we move out of the traditional Kiwi holiday period.”
Although the vintage ahead was expected to be challenging, the experience of operational harvesting during the pandemic has built the resilience of the industry to respond quickly and adapt during difficult times, Gregan said.