New Zealand wine in Canada: The story, like the wine, just keeps getting better
17th May 2012 by Andrew Needs, Ottawa | No Comments
As little as ten years ago if you had asked Canadians what they associated with New Zealand you would have got a variation on kiwis (or kiwifruit as they are known in NZ, not to be confused with the bird!) spring lamb and the All Blacks. Today, I suspect you will have wine as part of that list.
The New Zealand wine story is one of our great successes. Wine making and vine growing go back to colonial times in New Zealand. However, it is only from the 1970’s onwards, when New Zealand farmers began to diversify their products and markets for export, that the potential of wine started to attract attention. By the early 1980’s investment had begun in earnest, and the industry has undergone significant expansion since then. These days New Zealand exports over a billion dollars’ worth of wine annually, with export markets now making up 70 percent of sales – up 38 percent from just 10 years ago.
In Canada, New Zealand wine has gone from strength to strength in the last five years. Canada is our now fourth largest market for wine globally and it is our third-largest export to Canada. We exported around 63 and half million dollars-worth of wine here in 2011 – up 40% since 2008. Most of our wine exports to Canada are white wine, Sauvignon Blanc in particular, which accounts for around 60% of sales. That is hardly surprising given the signature nature of that wine and its association with the cool climate conditions that bring out a distinctive New Zealand terroir. Canadians, however, are increasingly becoming aware of the now 500 or so vineyards in New Zealand, and the burgeoning world class group of reds, especially Pinot Noirs, that are starting to balance up the ledger with their more established white counterpart. New Zealand’s North-South geography and expansive coastline means we can grow a diverse range of varieties and styles and there are now 13 wine growing regions, each with their own distinct characteristics.
In short, the New Zealand wine industry is a great example of what is possible with the right combination of the innovative, pioneering spirit that New Zealanders apply to any task, and making the most of our natural endowments – that special combination of soil, climate and water that provides the basis for the exceptional food and beverage we produce.
I encourage any Canadians interested in wine to attend New Zealand wine dinners/ tasting events that regularly take place in Canadian cities. I recently spoke at a most enjoyable dinner, “New Zealand in a Glass” as part of the Visa Infinite Dining Series, which matched distinctive New Zealand wines with top quality Canadian food. Canadians across the country recently had a chance to sample quality New Zealand wines at a series of wine fairs held across the country. Up to 39 New Zealand wineries participated in these events which took place in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto.
For information about upcoming New Zealand wine events I suggest you visit www.nzwine.com