South Island good for wine, not dairy, Master of Wine says
A London wine expert is "appalled" with the dairy industry's impact on New Zealand's wine industry.
However the head of New Zealand's main farming group says the expert's opinion is "uninformed" and "naive".
Master of wine Peter McCombie says he is shocked with the state of the environment as a result of dairy farming.
"I am appalled at the degradation of the environment that dairy in the wrong place is causing New Zealand. I have no problem with Waikato and Taranaki, but Canterbury? Dairy doesn't belong."
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McCombie said New Zealand's wine industry had a "fantastic green reputation" through its sustainable programme.
"But if people got a whiff of the degradation of the rivers and so on in the South Island, I think they'd be appalled."
Federated Farmers president William Rolleston dismissed McCombie's claims.
"I think it's a uninformed opinion and he'd be welcome to come and see the exciting things farmers are doing in terms of environmental responsibility.
"It's naive to just be pointing a finger at the dairy industry," Rolleston said.
"We are working across a number of things, and yes, it does have some impact on the environment, but it's not the only activity that has an impact on the water."
McCombie acknowledged the dairy industry was a big money-maker for the country.
"I know dairy is good financially, but the wine industry took off about the time the British joined the [European] common market and New Zealand was dumped, because basically when you sold butter and unprocessed lamb...New Zealand had to think about readdressing added value, and wine is a really good way of adding value to primary produce.
"And I think New Zealand producers have shown themselves to be really adaptive with that. I think that's a real success story."
McCombie comments come after spending two days at the Pinot Noir NZ 2017 conference in Wellington.
The conference, which attracted about 600 people from 20 countries, was a celebration of New Zealand pinot noir. The three-day event happens every four years.
McCombie said there was a lot more that could be achieved by the industry.
"I think there is a possibility for New Zealand to fill in for different scales - you know they could do entry-level, juicy, fruity style well - people like it - [then] you can have something slightly more ambitious and then you can have the things that are becoming icons.
"And I'm slightly wary of saying New Zealand makes world class pinot - I think there are some really, really world-class pinots, but I think there probably aren't that many New Zealand pinots that you could genuinely call great, but there are lots that give people pleasure" he said.
"Pinot is never going to be mass market and that's fine, [but] pinot has the opportunity to be the flip side of sauvignon."
The UK in New Zealand's second largest market for wine exports in the world, behind the US.
According to the latest figures from Statistics New Zealand, New Zealand's wine exports grew by 5.1 per cent during 2016 - from $1.53 billion to $1.6b.
McCombie said in the UK, New Zealand has the highest average bottle price by a pound.
"And you think 'hang on a minute, the French sell wine at several hundred pounds and New Zealand doesn't', but the truth is the French also sell wine at the bottom end and New Zealand doesn't do either.
"So New Zealand has this nice, healthy price point."
New Zealand's real competitor was Oregon in the US, he said.
"It's relatively expensive to make wine in Oregon. There's a bit of really good pinot from California but that tends to be expensive, and then there's Burgundy.
"There are a few other bits and pieces around the world but in terms of emerging brands, New Zealand has the opportunity I think to win business."