New Zealand, Australia to diversify wines



chris atchison/metro toronto photos


Andrew Miller, winemaker for Australia’s Wyndham Estate wineries, sniffs at a glass of Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet. Bottles of 2006 Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc, 2004 Wyndham Estates Bin 555 Shiraz and 2004 Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet. The wines are indicative of some of the most popular varietals from both Australia and New Zealand.


When most wine lovers discuss vintages from Down Under, Shiraz or Chardonnay from Australia and Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand are the varietals that most often dominate conversation.

But wine experts Andrew Miller, of Australia’s Wyndham Estate wineries, and Jim Robertson, global business relations manager for New Zealand wine and spirit producer Pernod Ricard, stress a wind of change is blowing across the vines that snake across the fertile growing regions in their respective countries.

“I feel that for New Zealand to have any serious credibility in the world of wine, we have to broaden our footprint outside of Sauvignon Blanc,” Robertson says.

Approximately 75 per cent of New Zealand wine consumed in Canada is Sauvignon Blanc.

He points to a growing trend over the next two years toward diversification among that country’s producers, sure to excite the palettes of wine aficionados across Canada and the world.

“Pinot Noir is going to be the next varietal to be promoted,” Robertson explains. “This will give use the opportunity to present highly differentiated white and red varietals outside of the global mainstream that match well with food.”

While New Zealand boasts the southern-most vineyards in the world, the country’s total wine output is only about 186,000 tons per year, about one-tenth of Australia’s, which Robertson points to as the reason producers there emphasize the quality over quantity of a relatively limited selection of varietals.

By contrast, Australia’s sheer number of climatically-zdistinct wine growing regions far outnumber New Zealand’s, allowing producers the opportunity to offer a wider range of wines to the world.

Miller sees a decided diversification taking hold over the next year that will take Australia into relatively uncharted viticultural waters.

“We’re not shifting away from Chardonnay and Shiraz,” Miller stresses, “we’re just going to be exploring new varieties. Pinot Gris, for example, will be one of the varietals being promoted out of Australia very soon and we’ll continue to take ownership of Shiraz.”

Miller also points to a trend toward greater experimentation with grape blending.

“By blending from different areas you can blend the best characteristics in a nice, whole package,” he adds.

But Miller isn’t worried about the current drought ravaging parts of his country — one of the worst in Australian history that has lasted five years in some regions.

He casually predicts a decrease in wine production by about 30 per cent this year.

While statistics such as these would give most analysts reason for concern, Miller feels those harsh meteorological realities will actually produce a market correction and remove certain “opportunistic brands” from the landscape that sprung up as the result of over-supplies in 2005-06.

“Those were big-crop years which led to lesser brands popping up,” he says. “With the drought, I think these brands will dry up.”