Whenever I hear the statement that New Zealand produces less than 3 percent of the wine sold on the global market, I try to visualise what that is. This year I attended ProWein in Düsseldorf, Germany, and could see that 3 percent works out to be approximately 200 square metres — or about 800 bottles — within a 50,000-square-metre city of wine that has tens of hundreds of thousands of different wines to taste.
It sounds like a lolly shop, but more business than wine tasting is done at this fair. ProWein is the wine trade show for those seriously looking to expand their international distribution. It attracts producers, exhibitors, importers, media and wine trade from around the globe. Around 6,000 exhibitors, 1,000 journalists and 48,000 visitors hustle, spit and shake hands. It’s stupendously big. It took me over an hour to traverse the entire perimeter of seven stadium-sized halls — without even stopping at the Champagne lounge on the way.
So with all of these people eager to sell and buy wine, what does it take to be successful in this environment — securing an importer in another country? How can one possibly have a voice amongst the chaotic clatter of thousands? How can your boutique brand from little New Zealand be distinguished from the towering displays of gold-plated bottles, neon labels and, my personal favourite, the George Clooney wine?
Unless you are an enormous wine producer with gargantuan resources, the key lies in collaboration. As a ‘small’ producer — only 35,000 cases of wine a year — we at Murdoch James Estate teamed up with another 21 producers and shared the collective brand power of the New Zealand Winegrowers marketing body.
New Zealand is truly attractive to international buyers — particularly those in up-and-coming northern hemisphere markets like Scandinavia, Canada and Russia. The attraction is based in part on our successful history with Sauvignon Blanc, but also because of the amount of work New Zealand Winegrowers do in maintaining our reputation for quality wine. At ProWein 2014, the New Zealand Winegrowers marketing arm organised and attracted crushing crowds of media, trade and punters, all clamouring for mini-tastings of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines from Aotearoa.
Our minuscule 3 percent supply, combined with the high status promoted by New Zealand Winegrowers, means that we still achieve some of the highest export prices for our wines. This is no small achievement. It is fundamental to keeping a small country, with an oversupplied industry, triumphant.
I work for a wine producer in Martinborough, a region that produces 1 percent of that 3 percent of global wine. ProWein 2014 was successful for us. That success is attributable to New Zealand’s reputation for quality wine, and as it turns out, the world loves our lollies.