The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Ten questions with Phil Gregan, CEO of NZ Winegrowers

Please tell us about your role at NZ Winegrowers
Phil Gregan, CEO of NZ Wine Growers

Phil Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Wine Growers

I’m the CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation for New Zealand’s grape and wine sector. We currently have approximately 850 grower members and 700 winery members.

We undertake a wide range of tasks on behalf of New Zealand’s grape and wine sector including:

  • advocacy at regional local and international levels
  • providing a global marketing platform for New Zealand wine
  • facilitating world-class research on industry priorities
  • giving the industry timely and strategic information, and organising sector-wide events such as the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration, the Members’ Annual Bragato Conference and Awards and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

What were the highlights of the recent International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration?

We had over 300 people attend the celebration, from 18 different countries – 65 high profile international wine influencers were taken on a ‘wine flight’ from Blenheim to Gisborne, on two charter Air NZ Q300 planes.

The flight path took guests over the spectacular Marlborough, Nelson, Martinborough/Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne wine regions. On-board guests were invited to try wines from some of the regions they were flying over, including a Nelson Albariño, a Martinborough Pinot Noir and a Hawke’s Bay Syrah. This was the first flight of its kind and a real hit with our visitors!

Is Sauvignon Blanc still New Zealand’s most popular variety?

Without a doubt Sauvignon Blanc is still our most popular variety, making up 85% of our total exports. We are doing some exciting things with Sauvignon Blanc in NZ, which were showcased at the recent International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration. There was a big focus on diversity of styles, from classic stainless steel fermented wines, through to botrytised, wild fermented and oak aged approaches, as well as low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc.

While Sauvignon Blanc is our most popular drop we’re seeing huge interest in our Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris as well. Also, at the NZ Wine Chardonnay and Sparkling Symposium, held in Gisborne in February, our international wine influencers were very impressed at the quality and diversity of wines available.

Which new wine trends do we need to watch?

Consumers are buying more ethically, and are increasingly interested in knowing where their food and drink comes from, reinforcing the need for robust sustainable wine production programmes to give our consumers peace of mind.

We have a lot more consumers who are committed to healthy living and knowing what is in the products they’re consuming. This has encouraged a new trend to emerge around producing ‘lighter’ wines, which have lower alcohol and calorie content.

What is your advice for NZ retailers and supermarkets?

Consumers are interested in a trying different wine styles, so it’s important to stock a wide range of varieties from all New Zealand regions to meet consumer needs.

What were the key finding of New Zealand’s first Sparkling and Chardonnay Symposium?

We’ve had a lot of feedback from our guests following the inaugural NZ Chardonnay and Sparkling Symposium. The stand out comments were that they were impressed at the amount and quality of sparkling wines being produced in New Zealand. In regards to Chardonnay, we had an extensive line-up and our guests were blown away by the number of exceptional wines they tried, and by the regional and stylistic diversity that New Zealand has on offer. The event was a huge success and showcased both the wines, and the Gisborne region superbly.

How will the industry achieve its goal of $2 billion of annual wine exports by 2020?

We will achieve our goal by continuing to invest in quality in all aspects of our business from grape growing and wine making, through to sales and marketing. We need to be world-class in all aspects of the value-chain.

What are the biggest challenges for our winegrowers?

There’s great opportunity for New Zealand wine in the global market place, but opportunity always brings with it a multiplicity of challenges. Whether it’s the weather in New Zealand, currency or distribution, it’s important to remain focused on the opportunity rather than getting overwhelmed by the challenges.

What are your predictions for vintage 2016?

At time of writing vintage 2016 is not yet underway, but all the signs point to a high quality vintage (following good summer weather), which looks to be larger than last year’s.

Your idea of the perfect wine and food match is . . . ?

It depends hugely on the occasion. We’re lucky in New Zealand because we produce a range of top quality wine, from many different grape varieties, which can be matched to any modern food style- it’s too hard to pick one!