I was recently invited to give a key note speech at the Bragato Conference in Auckland. I was asked to sum up global supply and demand and to give a view as to when the oversupply situation might correct itself.
Probably the most poignant moment in the conference for me was seeing the somewhat anguished look on the Chairman of New Zealand Winegrowers (Stuart Smith’s) face when hearing the answers to the question he put to the ‘leadership panel’.
He asked – “What is the one big, hairy, audacious idea that will take New Zealand forward?”
One of the panellists wanted to improve the way New Zealand produces wine, another wanted to protect it and a third wanted to do that sustainably. No one was nominating market driven initiatives that might result in a change in the offer – some new ideas, in other words.
From my perspective at least, New Zealand’s opportunities are both obvious and immense. If we consider those three key target consumer groups so often referred to in the Wine Paper and in our workshops then some things that can be done immediately to build on current demand are as follows:
Aspirational Consumers – Brown Brothers were in the press recently claiming that according to their research, 60% of wine drinkers don’t like the taste of it. There is a great weight of evidence showing that for this audience – lighter, whiter, brighter, pinker, bubblier and sweeter work. Not all at the same time of course and not in the same simple, cheap and sometimes nasty way of past incantations.
Rose, Sparking and Moscato wines are going through the roof and New Zealand is ideally placed to produce high quality, sophisticated versions of these styles, to package them to world’s best standard and to market them at prices that make sense both for producers and consumers.
Wine Appreciators – New Zealand has made a serious fist of tackling red burgundy but at some point has forgotten about doing the same for the white equivalent (with a few very notable exceptions like the wonderful Chardonnays of Michael Brajkovich at Kumeu River).
There is a massive opportunity, I believe, if more producers stop making “New World” style Chardonnays to sell at commercial price points and focus instead on creating wines with cool climate elegance and complexity that express a unique sense of place to sell at much higher price points.
Likewise, the hottest ticket in town right now is elegant, spicy, Rhone style reds. Some producers are still trying to make Australian style red wines when those styles have long since fallen from favour. A collective approach and better distributors in Australia in particular should see Hawkes Bay wines doing much better than they are currently.
Connoisseurs – Becoming collectable is the key to creating luxury wine brands, getting the price of top end wines up and strengthening the image of your country brand. Whilst New Zealand might have the highest average FOB price for its wine of any country, France has 38% of its wines listed at over £40 in UK restaurants where New Zealand has only 13% according to our Wine On Premise UK research.
Not having a widely recognised classification system for old and rare New Zealand wine is part of the problem. I spoke to Andrew Caillard at Langtons and his feeling is that New Zealand needs to create its own classification. It can be done in the same way the Langtons do in Australia but in his view it needs to be for and by New Zealanders. New players are emerging in the wine auction space. One of them will doubtlessly take this idea forward.