Marlborough Express - Raise a glass to another successful vintage

Columns
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another great Marlborough harvest is coming to a close.

As the harvesters disappear from our roads and the flurry of activity begins to die down, it's a great time to reflect on what all this means for our local economy.

Besides the obvious financial result of the harvest - selling fantastic Marlborough wine to the world - these six weeks of hard graft by a huge number of workers, both permanent and seasonal, provide a short, sharp and significant injection into our economy.

The logistical effort and behind-the-scenes work that is put into each and every harvest by a large number of Marlborough companies and people is quite phenomenal.

Businesses that may not be directly involved with the wine industry for the rest of the year benefit at harvest time.

An example is BV Gourmet, which prepared and delivered 750 meals a day to vineyards during the harvest period.

Of course, the many international visitors who come here for harvest will also visit our cafes and restaurants, our shops and perhaps a number of our tourist activities.

Even without these visitors, the impact of the wine industry in Marlborough is obvious when you look at the numbers.

Last year, the wine sector contributed 10.1 per cent of local employment (that's 2240 jobs) in Marlborough. In fellow wine-producing region Hawke's Bay, the industry contributed just 1.3 per cent and in Otago 0.7 per cent.

This year's crop yield has been a particularly good one following a dream run of weather. Our hot summer, while challenging for pastoral farmers, has been very beneficial for grape growers.

There is no doubt that the resulting grapes are of exceptional quality. However, the sheer amount of them means there will be some grapes that are left on the vines as wine companies impose yield caps, due to the lack of processing and market capacity.

It's a lesson we learned back in 2008, when a larger than expected harvest resulted in a significant marketing challenge to sell the wine without impacting on Marlborough's hard won international reputation. That presented challenges which forced adjustments within the industry that have proven beneficial.

The events of 2008 necessitated growers to re-adjust their focus from quantity to quality, and created a drive to reduce tonnage in bumper years as we are seeing now.

Like any business, the wine industry has to look to the longterm sustainability of their industry, their markets, and that means carefully managing their supply and demand.

It's a balancing act for sure, but this year I think we've got it right.

Well done Marlborough, on another fantastic vintage.

I look forward to sampling my first glass of outstanding 2016 Marlborough sauvignon blanc.