United States takes over as leading wine market

Cloudy Bay winemaker Tim Heath pours sauvignon blanc into a glass during an event to launch a vintage in New York.

Cloudy Bay winemaker Tim Heath pours sauvignon blanc into a glass during an event to launch a vintage in New York.

The United States has become New Zealand's most valuable wine export market, surpassing Australia.

Wine exports to the US for the year ended June 2015 were worth $372 million, up 13 per cent on the previous year. By value the US market accounted for about one quarter of wine exports.

Total exports returns were $1.42 billion, up 7 per cent on 2014. The industry has a target of $2b exports by 2020.

Leading export destinations include Australia ($362m), the United Kingdom ($354m), Canada ($95m), and the Netherlands ($41m).

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the Trans-Pacific Partnership might open up Asian markets, particularly Japan which maintains relatively high tariffs against wine.

Because wine was seen as a luxury product and not produced in Japan, it was an attractive market. At present Japan buys $13.7m worth of New Zealand wine.

Gregan said there was a high degree of confidence about reaching the goal of $2b exports, based on the previous decade's growth. It was not a question of whether the figure would be attained, but when.

By volume of variety, sauvignon blanc is by far the leader at 66 per cent, followed by chardonnay (8.3 per cent), pinot noir (8 per cent), pinot gris (6.2 per cent), and merlot (2.7 per cent).

The total vineyard area is 35,000 hectares and the harvest tonnage 326,000 tonnes. Wine is now New Zealand's sixth largest export good by value.

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