The rugby world cup kicks off in New Zealand in less than three weeks, and is expected to draw hoardes of tourists. Unlike football the majority of these rugby supporters are likely to be late thirty plus, fairly solvent people. Again unlike football, rugby attracts nearly as many women as men, with the majority of visitors likely to be couples. Coincidentally this demographic is an exact match for quality new world wine drinkers so this competition is a golden opportunity for the wineries to show off their quality and attract new customers from all over the world.

New Zealand has suffered over the last three years from bumper crops. While we may logically think this was a good thing, it has led to an over production of New Zealand wine. This means the wineries have to compete harder for market share, and discount their products. Also the New Zealand dollar has been extremely strong which severely affects exports as it makes their wine very expensive for other countries to buy. As a result many of the small independent wineries are having a particularly tough time.

These wineries also have to contend with additional costs for prospective importers in their target markets, caused by the relative isolation of New Zealand. Shipping from NZ is expensive – shipping in small quantities is simply cost prohibitive. So if you’re a small boutique winery producing 50 pallets a year selling outside of NZ is very difficult. This is then compounded by the big wineries who are selling off excess bulk wines at cost to anybody who will buy it. These wines are normally transported in bladder to the purchasing country where they are bottled, then labelled with some made up name – usually with “Bay” in the title! There are loads of these wines appearing, with plenty being own label for the supermarkets. This has led to “Marlborough” Sauvignon Blanc being available in the UK for under £5 – bear in mind that £2.64 of this is UK tax!

So the rugby world cup is a prime opportunity for the quality boutique wineries to show why their wines are worth paying the extra for. The NZ roads will be swarming with middle aged wine lovers poncing around in campervans – I know because I will be one of them! Stopping at wineries stocking up with a case or two and letting the wife do the driving. This is a rare opportunity for NZ to snatch back some of the market share that has been lost to cheaper regions like South Africa, Chile and Argentina. I am particularly looking forward to sampling some Hawke’s Bay Syrah as word is NZ is beginning to make some excellent examples.

I lived in NZ for 12 months about 15 years ago. The in-joke at the time was that on landing at Auckland the pilots used to say “welcome to New Zealand, please put your watch back 20 years”! That now sounds ideal to me – I may be very tempted to stay!