New Zealand makes best of ‘disappointing’ yield

New Zealand's wine industry is 'disappointed' with the 2003 vintage, estimated to be 45% lower in volume than last year's.

On Tuesday NZ Winegrowers, the country’s main trade body, officially revised its expectation of the 2003 vintage. ‘In February we expected the vintage to total around 90,000 tonnes of grapes, a 25% reduction on the 2002 vintage. However, current reports from most areas, with the notable exceptions of Nelson and Central Otago, are that crops are significantly lower than originally expected. As a result we now expect the vintage to be about 45% down on Vintage 2002, at around 65,000 tonnes,’ said CEO Phillip Gregan.

The reduced yield is attributed to the widespread spring frosts and cool temperatures during crucial flowering periods. While the low vintage will be made up by good stock levels from 2002’s record harvest of 118,700 tonnes, a reduction in sauvignon blanc production is predicted.

New Zealand’s largest wine producer Montana referred to the harvest as ‘undeniably disappointing’ and said it was ‘taking steps to mitigate effects of the small vintage’. But chief winemaker Jeff Clarke said the lighter crop had helped in developing some very flavourful fruit, ‘We will get some excellent red wines out of Hawke’s Bay this year,’ he said.

Steve Smith of highly-rated Hawke’s Bay winery Craggy Range also remained optimistic. Apart from one light-cropping Marlborough vineyard, they were ‘essentially unaffected by the drastic reduction in yields’ due to increased vine plantings and existing stock levels.

‘Because we avoided the frost in October, ripening was even and quality in Martinborough is sensational,’ he told decanter.com.

Winegrowers concluded that although it was too early to make ‘any definitive comments’ the overall quality of the vintage looked promising. ‘We are confident consumers will find much to be excited about. However, as always the ultimate test will be in the tasting,’ Gregan said.

Written by Tracey Barker1 May 2003