Wine lovers from 20 countries heading to capital to celebrate Kiwi pinot noir

Kiwi actor Sam Neill was just one famous face at the last pinot noir event in 2013.
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/FAIRFAX NZ

Kiwi actor Sam Neill was just one famous face at the last pinot noir event in 2013.

Pinot noir means big business in New Zealand.

The red grape contributes about $140 million to New Zealand's economy, and is the second most popular wine variety for the country's export markets.

So it is no surprise that a three-day event to celebrate pinot noir has been a sell-out.

Pinot noir is the second largest wine exports for New Zealand.
FAIRFAX NZ

Pinot noir is the second largest wine exports for New Zealand.

Pinot Noir NZ, held every four years, will be held on Wellington's waterfront from January 31.

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The 2013 Pinot Noir New Zealand event.
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/FAIRFAX NZ

The 2013 Pinot Noir New Zealand event.

It brings together 600 pinot noir lovers from 20 different countries, who will have the opportunity to taste more than 600 wines from 117 wineries.

New Zealand Winegrowers global marketing director Chris Yorke said the event - which has been described as "the best pinot noir event on the planet" - was an important opportunity to showcase the country's best pinot noir.

"What we also want to do is take a leadership position with pinot noir," Yorke said.

"It's about putting our best foot forward and telling our story in our own way. It's about positioning New Zealand as a unique place."

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Pinot noir accounted for 6 per cent of wine exported to overseas markets last year.

During 2016, about 12.17 million litres of the variety was exported  - up 11.8 per cent on the previous year.

About 35,661 tonnes of pinot noir grapes were harvested in 2016, making up 8.5 per cent of the total New Zealand vintage.

By comparison, 303,711 tonnes of sauvignon blanc grapes were harvested during the same period.

Pinot noir would never become as big as sauvignon blanc, however it would - and already was - holding its own, Yorke said.

"It won't be [as big] in terms of value and volume, but pinot noir is a very difficult grape to grow and not many parts of the world can grow it.

"We are one of the ones that can [grow it], which gives us kudos as a great winemaking market."

Pinot noir was important to New Zealand's growth overseas, he said.

In terms of total exports, New Zealand's biggest market was the US, followed by the UK, then Australia and Canada.

For pinot noir exports, it is almost the opposite, with our neighbours across the ditch first, followed by the UK and the US.

New Zealand was in good company, just behind France for premium wine sales overseas, Yorke said.

"[Pinot noir] is very important because New Zealand is the second most expensive in the wine categories in every country."

Wine is New Zealand's sixth largest export good by value. Last year, wine exports were worth $1.56 billion, and the industry is aiming to grow this to $2b by 2020.

 - Stuff

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