The wide world of wine.

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Living in Marlborough, it is easy to forget that we are not the be all and end all of all things Sauvignon blanc. And although we are the largest wine growing region in New Zealand, we are a drop in the ocean of this global industry.  

There is a whole wide world of wine out there, of which, New Zealand only makes up 1.1%. Yet this 1.1% brings us in $1.1b in exports. The powerhouse players in the world of wine are ‘The Old World’. Countries that have been growing vines, making and drinking wines since before New Zealand was even a country. For instance, France, Italy, Spain produces 50% of the worlds wine. In 2019 that was around about 130million H/L! They don’t drink it all themselves though, the USA, Germany and China help.  

Despite Marlborough’s best efforts (5731ha in 2002 increased to 16,000ha in 2008), we saw a massive global decrease in the area of earth covered in vineyards around 2002/2003 with just over 7.8mha being reduced to around 7.4mha in 2011. Countries such as Turkey and Iran pulled out thousands of hectares of grapes and globally it hasn’t been replanted yet. They would have been pulling out all old indigenous varieties that locals drunk but that had no international appeal. Now, we see a global trend where we are all planting the same thing. The ‘Top Ten’ varieties. Planted all over the world and commercially viable. So much so they are even being planted in areas of France where they must be sold as table wine (lowest PGI) because they are not the varieties of that region so cannot be PDO/PGI (CRU) or part of the classic blends of the region. This really makes me sad. There are over 1300 grape varieties out there, and it feels like all too soon many of them will only exist in dusty bottles in cellars.  

So that poses the question: do we plant what grows well or what sells well? If you’re lucky like New Zealand, what grows well is also what sells well. Over 91% of New Zealand’s wines are made from ‘Top Ten’ varieties and as I said earlier, that brings in a pretty penny for national export income. But at what cost to us locals? We are now seeing large internationally owned companies coming in, buying our smaller local ones, and adding them to their portfolio. More land out of New Zealanders hands, and helping to create a market where kiwis can’t afford their own products: think cheap Aussie Sauvignon blanc in New Zealand winery bottles (Karen). 

And it’s not just happening in New Zealand. With the boom of wine and vine in the New World, the whole industry is seeing a shift towards globalization/capitalization, and the increased planting of the ‘top ten’ are just one of the tell-tale signs. Another is that 43% of all wine is consumed in a country other than where it was grown. What happened to drinking local? Large supermarket chains can buy up bulk wine, create their own labels/branding, bottle it and sell it all over the world, cheaply. Your average Ma and Pa family-owned winery cannot compete with that. They rely on people to drink local, or at least be educated on what they are drinking so they will be happy to spend that extra $5 a bottle for quality and authenticity.  

There are a lot of pros and cons to the globalization of the Wine Industry, and we could ramble on for hours, but where would that get us. 

I think my stance is this: Everyone is different and everyone who enjoys wine probably has a different reason for doing so. There is no right and wrong.  

While we need to drink local and support local, we also need to get out and try the world, educate ourselves and indulge in the exotic and unknown. Because life is too short to only drink Sauvignon blanc 😉 


Warden N.  (n.d) NMIT, CCO410 Wine Finishing and Analysis, S2-20         ‘The Global Wine Industry’  PowerPoint slide show 

Vineyard Reports, NZ Wine.