New Zealand wine industry's 2024 vintage outlook

The impact of Cyclone Gabrielle: New Zealand wine's path to recovery in 2024


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As the New Zealand wine industry approaches the 2024 harvest season, the sector stands at the crossroads of recovery and challenge. The aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in February 2023, which wreaked havoc across the North Island, causing an estimated NZ$13.5 billion (US$8.42 billion) in damage and a significant loss of approximately 20,000 tonnes of grapes, continues to cast a long shadow over the industry. Yet, amidst the lingering effects of this disaster, there is a budding optimism for the upcoming vintage, fueled by favorable weather conditions and the resilience of the winegrowing community.

The cyclone's impact was not just a one-off event but a setback with long-lasting repercussions for vine health and infrastructure. The 2023 harvest, which followed the cyclone, was the first indicator of the extent of damage and the industry's robust response to such adversity. Now, as the 2024 harvest looms, the New Zealand wine industry is bracing for a yield that, while diminished in volume, is anticipated to be of exceptional quality.

Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, reflects a cautious yet hopeful outlook for this year's harvest. The silver lining appears in the form of this season's El Niño weather pattern, which has blessed the winegrowing regions with ample warmth and sunshine. This boon from nature has facilitated excellent grape ripening conditions and low disease pressure, setting the stage for a vintage that promises to deliver on quality, if not on quantity.

The expected decrease in the 2024 grape harvest follows a trend of fluctuating production volumes witnessed over the past years, influenced by various challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages, and the devastating effects of extreme weather events. In 2023, New Zealand harvested 501,000 tonnes of grapes, a 6% decrease from the 532,000 tonnes in 2022, yet the value of New Zealand wine surged by 23%, indicating a strategic pivot towards maximizing the value of its produce amidst adversity.

This strategic shift is also reflected in New Zealand's wine export dynamics, with around 90% of its wine finding markets overseas, particularly in the US, UK, and Australia. The recent free trade agreement with the UK, which eliminates tariffs on more than 97% of New Zealand's exports to the UK, is a significant development. It not only underscores the global appeal and reputation of New Zealand wine but also opens new avenues for growth and stability in these uncertain times.

As the New Zealand wine industry navigates the challenges posed by the reduced yield of the 2024 vintage, it does so with an understanding that adversity can coexist with opportunity. The emphasis on quality over quantity, coupled with strategic market engagements, could well define the resilience and adaptability of this vibrant sector. The industry's collective effort to rebound from the setbacks while maintaining the high standards of New Zealand wine is a testament to its enduring spirit and commitment to excellence.

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