New Zealand expects a small 2012 vintage, which is likely to put the brakes on its decade-long growth spurt.

The industry is predicting crops could be as much as 30% lower compared to 2011’s 328,000 tonne harvest.

A lighter crop could lead to a grape shortage, which marks a massive turnaround for an industry that has been burdened by oversupply since 2008.

Stuart Smith, chair of industry body, New Zealand Winegrowers, told ‘I expect that the vintage will be around 300,000 tonnes. However, even if we had a 328,000 tonne harvest like last year, we would still be short by about 10%. We now have very low stocks on hand and export sales are growing at a good rate.’

Export sales have grown from just 23 million litres in 2002 to 154m litres in 2011, and are worth NZ$1.1 billion compared to $246m in 2002.

‘If we get a 300,000 tonne vintage, growth will stop because we won’t have any stock; even if we get 300-328,000 tonnes there will be practically no growth.’

In 2011, bulk represented around 20% of total volumes compared to just 2% in 2007, and it is likely that bulk sales will fall with a light crop. The industry also hopes profitability will improve with less availability.

Smith claimed that retail prices may not alter significantly in the short-term. ‘Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc may not change much at all but there will be less of the bottom priced-wine.’

Written by Rebecca Gibb