Wine v's CheeseTuesday, Mar 6, 2001
With all the unknown, unpredictable and unpleasant aspects and risks of farming being to the fore in
recent times a comparative comment on the vibrancy, confidence and apparent pleasantness of the NZ
wine industry is perhaps in order.
As a land use, vineyards have been about for centuries. As a land use in NZ, grapes have had limited
appeal, particularly to those with English or Celtic ancestry. But even more interesting was the
wine industries arrested development due to the prohibitionist era. It seems that inspite of best
efforts we were a nation wedded to whiskey and beer if we weren’t too Methodistic about it all.
A news item today reported the progress of Giesen Wines of Canterbury but even more interesting was
the reported purchase by Ngai Tahau of the 69 hectares of producing vines in Marlborough for $9 million
or $130,000 per hectare.
Are prices like this an investment bubble or is this a genuine profit supportable venture?
It would seem that wines produced from particular regions in New Zealand have the qualities that appeal
internationally. That prices received do support satisfactory returns for both major and boutique
wineries and vineyards should therefore take a place in the landscape as a sensible land use at
these seemingly amazing prices.
It would be amusing even ironical if even before the concrete was dry or the stainless is polished of
the dairy industry now busily establishing in the irrigated regions of the South Island was replaced
by the style and pleasantness of vineyard operations.
There is a remarkable similarity, but on a different scale between the wine industry today and the dairy
industry of the sixties and seventies.
It was a time for realisation that the products we produce are capable of standing on their own merits
in quality, taste and value. That our products would be sought out by the customer if they matched
the customer's expectations. That NZ produce does not need to replicate that which someone else
produces. That variety and range is equally as important as quality and quantity.
The NZ vintners and winemakers are excited and aggressive as they grow their industry and have a positive
view of the world that they work in.
Perhaps this 'can do' aspect is being lost by a dairy industry now taking on the characteristics of
a rudderless ship, fast loosing its steam - because all hands have been focusing on what they could
save rather than what, and how better, they could produce, plus the captains have changed far too
After all it would only need about 250,000 hectares in wine production against the dairy industries
4-5 million hectares, to equate the dairy industries current export value! .