New Zealand wine booms amid market gloom

Wed Nov 26, 2008 2:02am EST
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By Glen Johnson

WELLINGTON (Reuters Life!) - Financial markets may be melting and economies in recession, but that hasn't put consumers off quality New Zealand wine, as booming exports show.

The country's boutique wine industry notched record sales in September and with similar results expected for October, it is on track for its planned NZ$1 billion ($545 million) annual earnings by 2010.

"In two words: our wine is world-class," said New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan.

"Our harvest was much bigger than last year's, bigger than anticipated. That reflects the fact that there was a very good growing season from December through March," he added.

A record 14.4 million bottles of New Zealand wine worth around NZ$100 million ($56 million) were sold worldwide in September and early figures suggest October will be just as big.

A prominent "New World" wine producer, New Zealand is best known for its sauvignon blanc but has a growing reputation for pinot noir, and targets exports at the top end of the market.

Most of the country's more than 500 winemakers are boutique, small scale operations producing low volumes of niche varieties.

One such boutique company is Framingham Wines, operating in New Zealand's major wine region Marlborough, located at the top of the South island.   Continued...

<p>A man drinks red wine in a file photo. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov</p>