New Zealand’s prime wine regions count cost of earthquake

From The Guardian:

Millions of dollars of wine have been lost along with storage vats amid concern for the forthcoming harvest.

quake

Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

Some of New Zealand’s prized vineyards are counting the cost of the country’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake with millions of litres of wine lost and estimates that up to a fifth of storage vats have been damaged.

With the 2017 grape harvest only months away, the New Zealand government has stepped in to aid the affected wineries in prime Sauvignon Blanc country, and a NZ Wine Response Team has been established.

The north Canterbury and Marlborough regions in the north-eastern south island suffered the worst damage to roads, infrastructure and homes as a result of November’s quake. Two people also died.

Marlborough is world-renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc production, with 70% of the New Zealand wine industry located in the region. In the last year, New Zealand exported NZ1.6 billion dollars (£920m) worth of wine.

“The Marlborough wine industry faces some challenges,” said economic development minister Steven Joyce, who has twice met with affected wineries in the region since the quake, of which there are 140.

“The key impact has been damage to around 20% of the wine storage tanks in the region, and the potential that a lack of storage will affect the ability of the industry to process the full 2017 harvest, which commences in around 15 weeks.”

Yealands winery is located 6km inland from Seddon off state highway one, which remains closed more than two weeks after the quake. Yealands commercial manager Michael Wentworth didn’t want to go into specifics, but confirmed a quantity of wine had been lost, vats damaged and visits to the cellar door were down. Wentworth was unable to put a price on sustained and potential losses. Yealands employs around 100 people on their estate, and since the quake has had all its employees work in pairs due to aftershocks and the risk of another rumble.

“We are lucky the government has been very proactive in stepping in straight away and saying ‘what do you need?’,” said Wentworth.

“We are beginning to discuss fast-tracking working visas and possible solutions in case of a shortfall in worker number for the 2017 vintage. We are lucky it is not worse.”

A report on the quake damage from NZ Winegrowers puts wine losses at just over 2% for the region, which produces 200 million litres of wine every year.

But NZ Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said he had begun talking to wineries who were concerned about the possible drop in tourist numbers to the region, as many tourists headed for Marlborough did so along state highway one after visiting Kaikoura.

Finding pickers for the 2017 was another potential issue, as many vineyard workers were backpackers or low-skilled migrants on work visas travelling through, who could potentially avoid the region while it was in recovery mode and aftershocks were continuing.

“The process of tank repair is already underway but it is going to be a big task which will continue for many months.” said Gregan.

Foley Family Wines, told the NZX they had sustained damage to the tune of NZ$1 million to their vineyards as a result of the quake, and the year ahead would be “challenging”.

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