New Zealand producers should “take poor quality Sauvignon out of the market” or they risk bringing the whole industry down, according to wine consultant Justin Howard-Sneyd MW.
Speaking during the second International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in Marlborough last month, Howard-Sneyd MW told the New Zealand winemakers in attendance:
“Don’t be tempted by short-term financial gain. Take poor quality Sauvignon out of the market, as if it tastes bad it will bring the whole industry down. Supply bulk wine to people you really trust, and don’t let supply exceed demand.
“As soon as there’s a glut as a wine buyer you smell blood under the water and can start playing producers off against each other. Open up in new markets rather than discounting in established markets. Going big in the US really helped in 2008 during the last Sauvignon glut”.
He went on to warn that New Zealand Sauvignon was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. “Selling New Zealand wine on promotion in the UK is a problem – 65% of all NZ wine sold in Britain is on promotion, which is an alarming figure.
“More New Zealand wine is being sold in bulk to the UK, which is worrying, as there are concerns over the quality of the wine being sold. Own-label supermarket brands are on the rise, which is a concern as it’s leading to a loss of ownership and control for NZ wineries.”
On a more positive note, Howard-Sneyd MW said that New Zealand wine is attracting both affluent consumers and a new generation of drinkers in the UK, particularly due to Kiwi Sauvignon’s refreshing, thirst-quenching character.
“People like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because it has flavour intensity, purity, and a mouth-watering capability. With its grapefruit, passion fruit, bell pepper and herbal notes, it’s highly distinctive – everyone can recognise it.
“It would be dangerous if New Zealand Sauvignon starts to lose its distinctiveness due to increasing yields. The inconsistency in quality and style will erode clarity. It will take a long time for New Zealand to lose its brand equity, but if you lose it you’ll never get it back.
“The size of Marlborough and the amount of future Sauvignon plantings in the pipeline is a concern. You need to look after your soils in order to preserve the distinctive flavour of Marlborough Sauvignon and protect its quality,” he said.
He went on to suggest that the best way forward for New Zealand Sauvignon was the premiumisation route. “Premiumisation within the New Zealand Sauvignon category is key through oaked and aged expressions, as producers need to get consumers to trade up.
“The likes of Dog Point, Pegasus Bay and Greywacke don’t fit the mold of the traditional Marlborough Sauvignon style, but there are consumers who typically spend £15 or over on a bottle of wine that will be happy for that explosion of experimentation within the category, as they are looking for interesting and unusual wines,” Howard-Sneyd said.