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New Zealand looks to Europe for inspiration

One of New Zealand's leading viticultural nurseries is looking to Europe to help predict the next wine trend.

Dennis Lunken, chief executive of Corbans Viticulture, told decanter.com he was trialling varieties grown in the cooler parts of Italy and Spain – particularly aromatic whites and varieties likes Nebbiolo, Barbera and Tempranillo which had demonstrated success in other new world regions – to see which were best suited to New Zealand’s conditions.

Describing the interest shown in alternate varieties by the country’s winegrowers as ‘huge’, Lunken said ‘new varieties are key to driving innovation. Market demand by wine drinkers worldwide shows they want to try new varieties beyond just the more commercial mainstream styles.’

Viognier is currently the most advanced of the new varieties – already scooping gold medals in domestic competitions – and production is predicted to increase dramatically. Pinot Gris and Arneis are also showing significant potential for growth.

John Hancock, founding partner of Trinity Hill, confirmed that following small releases of Tempranillo and Montepulciano in 1999, vineyard plantings have been upped. They have also recently bottled their first commercial Viognier and are working with Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Rousanne, Albarinho and Arneis.

‘We are looking for a point of difference, but with varieties that are still relatively mainstream. We don’t want to be marketing new varieties that no-one has ever heard of,’ he said.

Industry body New Zealand Winegrowers’ chairman Peter Hubscher has called for the industry to rise to the challenge of the 2004 record harvest of 166,000 tonnes – 40% greater than any previous harvest – via increased marketing and promotional efforts.

‘We realise that pioneering new grape varieties suited to our growing conditions is a critical part of this innovation,’ Lunken said.

However, despite widespread enthusiasm for innovation, John Hancock expressed concerns felt by many.

‘A big increase in marketing effort, even though the wines are world class, will be required to shift the world’s attention even a little away from Sauvignon Blanc towards other New Zealand wine styles. This is a major frustration, particularly for the producers of reds other than Pinot Noir.’

Written by Tracey Barker

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