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'Vintage back to normal': Winegrowers hopeful of refilling cellars

The 2022 grape harvest looks to have rebounded from the disappointment of last year allowing bigger production and winemakers to refill their cellars, after stocks were depleted a year ago.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

The 2021 harvest was nearly 20 percent smaller than the previous year because of poor weather and wineries had to draw down on their reserves to meet market demand.

But reports are coming through from some makers of a much better year, with the stock exchange-listed company Foley Wines reporting its 2022 harvest was likely to be two-thirds higher than last year.

"The team across the business did a remarkable job in very difficult conditions," chief executive Mark Turnbull said in a statement.

"Unseasonal rain in Marlborough and Martinborough posed some challenges, and also the teams needed to navigate their way through Omicron."

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the update from Foley Wines and others in the industry is encouraging.

"The anecdotal feedback we're getting from the industry is that the vintage is back to normal after a very small crop last year.

"That's going to please a lot of our wineries because they have certainly been plagued by shortage."

He also said concerns the industry would not have enough workers for the harvest period did not eventuate.

Gregan said the winegrowers would not know until about June if this year's harvest was large enough for growers to be able to replenish their stocks.

Looking ahead, Gregan said winegrowers were still facing a challenging period, as rising inflation and shipping disruptions would weigh on their profits.

A recent challenge for exporters had been the congestion at [

the world's largest port in Shanghai,] due to onerous permit and testing requirements which had caused a backlog of ships waiting to dock.

Gregan said the blockages were not a significant issue for the industry, as only about 2 percent of wine exports are sent to China.

"However, we are being impacted, like everyone else, by the logistic issues, the shipping issues, the delays, the ships not turning up that are plaguing global transportation at the moment," he said.

The gradual reopening of borders to tourists was an encouraging sign for the industry, Gregan said, as it would hopefully lead to more on-site sales for wineries.