Savvy results

by Michael Cooper / 07 February, 2013
Sauvignon blanc rules, according to the latest vineyard survey.
Harvesting sauvignon blanc grapes
Harvesting sauvignon blanc grapes, photo/Lynda Feringa.

Which of these popular white-wine varieties is more widely planted: pinot gris or chardonnay? The New Zealand Winegrowers Vineyard Register Report 2012, released recently, contains some unexpected results.

If you answered chardonnay, take a bow. Despite the climb to fashion of pinot gris over the past decade, New Zealand still produces more chardonnay, which covers over 9% of the national vineyard, than pinot gris (6.9%).

The new survey is “the most accurate information on New Zealand vineyards to have been reported in the last decade”, according to NZ Winegrowers. After a poor response to the 2011 survey, the organisation cracked the whip, making registration mandatory for all growers
who wished to participate in NZ Winegrowers’ events and its Sustainable Winegrowing programme.

The survey reveals that New Zealand’s 1841 vineyards – which supply grapes to more than 700 wine producers – covered 34,269ha in 2012. The producing area will rise by just 683ha between 2012 and 2015, but new plantings are planned. Confidence is returning to the industry after the glut of 2008-11; vineyard expansion is under way.

Two regions dominate. A whopping 66% of the national vineyard area is clustered in Marlborough, far ahead of Hawke’s Bay (14%). Otago (5%) also enjoys a podium finish, snatching third place from Gisborne (where a quarter of the vines have been uprooted since 2009).

Canterbury’s vineyard area has also plummeted since 2009 – at least according to the statistics. A bold claim that Waipara, in North Canterbury, is the country’s fastest-growing wine region is now revealed to have been based on an “unquantifiable error in the data”.

So, what’s hot, in terms of varieties? Sauvignon blanc rules, with 58% of the national vineyard, followed by pinot noir (15%), chardonnay, pinot gris and merlot. Riesling, syrah, gewürztraminer, cabernet sauvignon and viognier also rank in the top 10, but together account for barely 5%.

Gruner veltliner, an internationally voguish variety from Austria, now arousing interest here, covers just 31ha. Remember muller-thurgau? From over 1800ha in the early 1980s, this once hugely popular grape is down to 2ha and on the brink of extinction.


Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Enticingly scented, with strikingly intense, ripe fruit flavours and a crisp, dry, lasting finish. Not cheap, but great value. $24.50 (5/5)
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