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NZ bulk wine ‘a blip’, says Brent Marris

Bulk wine and lower prices are just a 'blip' for New Zealand and are part of growing up, according to Wither Hills founder Brent Marris.

Marris, who now owns New Zealand brand The Ned as part of his Marisco Vineyards business, tells Rebecca Gibb in the September issue of Decanter that recent bumper harvests such as 2008 have helped raise the country’s profile – despite sometimes falling prices.

‘Yes, we have taken a hit on our price, but we are growing our market,’ he says. ‘What it has done is take Marlborough to the world.’

And he adds: ‘Bulk wine is part of becoming an adolescent and we are about to transition.

‘It’s a blip on the way through to adulthood. It’s part of getting pimples, and when we have light crops, that bulk will disappear.’

Marris founded Wither Hills with his father in 1994, selling the company eight years later to Lion Nathan for NZ$52m before establishing The Ned in 2005.

He courted controversy in 2006 when it was discovered he had submitted Sauvignon Blanc samples to competitions that were different to the wines on sale to the public – but says he has a ‘clear conscience’ about the episode, insisting that the wines were simply different bottling runs.

On the subject of New Zealand’s growing reputation for Pinot Noir, Marris believes some people in Marlborough are overcropping or planting the variety in the wrong place.

‘Retail prices are coming in at sub-$20 as opposed to sub-$30 and when you have that, you have to have a high cropping level,’ he says. ‘It’s also happening in the rest of the country.’

Read the full interview in the September issue of Decanter magazine, available now in print, on iPad and via Zinio.

Written by Richard Woodard

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