The UK’s love affair with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is well documented – as is the news that the 2021 vintage was hit by bad weather. The question is, what do suppliers and retailers have lined up for SB-loving consumers?
From a quality perspective, 2021 in New Zealand was one of our best harvests ever,” says Matt Deller MW, chief global sales & marketing officer at Villa Maria. “However, spring frosts, inclement weather during flowering and summer droughts reduced yields considerably. Consequently, we will see a shortage of New Zealand wine available to consumers, which will be the new normal now that Marlborough is almost fully planted and global demand continues to grow.”
Deller says Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has been underpriced for many years. “We are seeing tremendous cost pressure all the way through the supply chain, so prices are necessarily increasing while still representing tremendous value and drinking pleasure,” he adds. “The average price of New Zealand as measured by Nielsen looks on track to cross the £8 mark over the next 12 months.”
He argues that there is no alternative to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. But as consumers look for value propositions, suppliers and retailers are answering the call.
“There’s nothing to do but face the issue,” says Joe Turner, category buying manager at The Co-op. He says the group has secured as much New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – its largest category – as it can.
“The issue will be at the start of next year,” he explains. “We’re looking at other sources – we have good relationships in South Africa, also Chile and Spain.” He says he’s confident the team can replicate what consumers want
When it comes to paying more, Turner says there might be some inflation, while the big brands “might hold their own”.
At North South Wines, managing director Kim Wilson works with Kono in Marlborough as well as Mount Riley and Rod McDonald in Hawkes Bay. “They’ve been great, we work with them on allocation,” she says. “We’ve managed to switch most of our bulk stuff over to the brands. So, they are paying slightly more, therefore the consumers are paying slightly more. And I think that’s the right way to go – New Zealand is always going to be in demand and there’s only so much they’ve got.”
She says the bulk side of things will start to diminish. And looking longer term, North South has been investigating alternatives. “The obvious places to go are Chile, South Africa, Australia, maybe even Spain. It’s that gooseberry/ passion fruit style that the consumer really wants.”
She highlights Cool Mountain – the company’s new South African Sauvignon Blanc sourced from coastal regions. “We wanted to make sure the quality was there, not only in the wine but also in the packaging. New Zealand is very good at packaging, so we looked at bottle shape, the weight, the quality – and paid more to have something to help satisfy the consumer.
“People don’t want to be hoodwinked into buying something that seems like an NZ alternative but then tastes and looks nothing like it. You’ve got to have integrity – we’re not shying away from saying it’s from South Africa, but we are trying to get it as close as we can, so that while there is this potential stopgap in supply, we’ve got something for the consumer.”