NZ wine industry gets $1.2m for US push

The wine industry’s efforts to break into the lucrative US market are getting a $1.2 million push in the right direction from the government.

Two record grape harvests have left the wine industry struggling with oversupply issues and some winemakers have looked to the United States for new sales.

Last year, Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was the first New Zealand wine to top varietal sales in the US, while Villa Maria recently signed a new $100m distribution deal.

The United States is particularly attractive for some winemakers who see the country as fifty separate markets of opportunity.

These efforts are receiving a small boost from the National government, which last night announced a range of new initiatives to promote New Zealand wine around the globe, including the $1.2 million push into the US market.

In the past year, the wine industry has cracked the $1 billion in exports mark and economic development minister Gerry Brownlee said the government was committed to helping the sector double that figure by 2020.

He said the US initiative was the first in a package of measures to help the industry build new markets and maintain its premium branding in existing ones.

The $1.2 million – which will be handed out over the next two years – is to help push high-end wine into the “lucrative but relatively undeveloped” US market, according to Mr Brownlee.

“The United States is already a significant market for New Zealand wine, but this initiative, which brings together 58 carefully selected wines from 21 of the country’s most notable wineries, is an exciting first step in developing a super-premium New Zealand wine category in this important market.”

The government also has a medium term target in Northern Europe, where it aims to fast-track building a strong New Zealand wine presence in markets such as Germany, Scandinavia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

It is also looking to develop a long term New Zealand wine strategy in the emerging Chinese market, where some winemakers are already looking.

Mr Brownlee said the new focus on wine would also aim to leverage off promotional activity from the Rugby World Cup, while also supporting the hosting of the Great Wine Capitals Network conference in Christchurch in November.

Unsurprisingly, the new support was welcomed by the industry and New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said there were major medium to long term opportunities to grow the value of New Zealand wine sales in global markets, after working to overcome current challenges.

“We have been working with Government on this package of initiatives for some time and it is incredibly pleasing to have reached this point. The focus of the package on premium wines supports Winegrowers’ long-term strategy of producing quality wines and the ability to partner with Government enables us to strengthen our footprint in some really important markets.”

The 2010 harvest has now been completed and while the industry is still waiting for exact figures, the country’s total yield is not expected to exceed the past two year’s harvests.

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