The Government and the wine industry have entered into a $17 million partnership to develop low alcohol, low calorie "lifestyle" wines and help grow the New Zealand's $1.2 billion wine export market.
The seven-year partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW), and 15 wineries was announced in Auckland today.
The partnership is the largest research and development project undertaken by the wine industry and is designed to position New Zealand as the top producer of premium lifestyle wines, Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.
Taxpayers will fund nearly $8m of the project, with the remainder coming from the winegrowers association and individual wineries.
MPI said the "lifestyle" wine market could be worth as much as $285m by 2023.
Guy said New Zealand could become a leader in the niche market, although he conceded some foreign buyers might simply swap buying one New Zealand wine for the "lifestyle version".
"They may do, but let's wait and see," he said.
"There is a real opportunity to build upon the $1.2b export market and the $400 million domestic market."
The new wine category would target women aged between 25 and 45 in the North American and Asian markets.
NZW chief executive Philip Gregan said MPI's involvement and investment would act as a conduit between the competing wine companies in the partnership, including Villa Maria, Mud House and Pernod Ricard.
Gregan said the effort would not result in a "zero-sum" effect on the wine market, where consumers simply switched from one New Zealand wine to another, but would grow the market.
"For example, one of our wineries can have a low-alcohol wine offering in a London gastro-pub for lunch customers and then their usual wine for dinner customers," he said.
No other wine producing nation had yet targeted the "lifestyle wines" niche and New Zealand wines were suited to the alcohol and calorie reductions because of their strong flavour profiles, he said.
Gregan said the partnership would build on efforts of some wineries to launch low-alcohol wines, some of which were already on supermarket shelves but some lacked quality.
"Many of those on the shelves are either low-alcohol or low-calorie and we need to combine both elements with an emphasis on high quality," he said.
"Our point of difference will be producing premium wines that can be naturally produced using sustainable viticultural techniques and native yeasts, providing an important point of difference to existing processing methods."
Gregan said all of the intellectual property that resulted from the research and development project would be owned by NZW, but shared with the industry.
MPI said the programme would develop a number of viticulture and winery tools that would enable the industry to service the rapidly growing market for lower-calorie and lower-alcohol wines with high quality, naturally produced options.
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