Grapevine nursery sees demand rising
Marlborough's wine industry is starting to sprout some "green shoots" after four years of dormancy, says a producer of grapevines and root stock.
Ormond Nurseries, in Grovetown near Blenheim, have been propagating grafted grape plants for 36 years and general manager Ben Wickham said they aim to be around for the next 36.
Grapevine producers are at the forefront of the production chain and always the first to feel the change in the industry's sentiment good and bad, he said.
There are five nurseries throughout New Zealand today - down from about 35 in 2008, he said.
"Most nurseries have decreased production by 90 per cent in the past four years, we've seen no growth at all – but we expected it," he said.
"We had to put our business to sleep for a while and drastically reduce our staff numbers, we went from hiring 70 seasonal staff down to six or seven."
In the past couple of months Mr Wickham has been fielding more inquiries from growers interested in "filling the gaps" and replacing dead or old vines.
"We are starting to see some green shoots, there is definitely increased optimism in the industry."
He is encouraging growers to put a rolling maintenance plan in place to replace old, diseased and underproducing vines and spread the costs and loss of production from new plants evenly.
"We have dropped production dramatically in the last few years, and will only ramp up again as demand requires – we don't want to be caught out.
"But the difficulty is we can't suddenly produce root stock, which is why we are encouraging people to have a two or three-year plan."
It takes up to three years for the root stock to be ready for grafting, after which the plant is still another two years away from producing fruit, Mr Wickham said.
Growers with a permanent view of Marlborough's industry have been keeping up with plant replacement, and he has seen no diversion from the prominent sauvignon blanc and pinot noir varieties, apart from a slight increase in chardonnay, he said.
There is lots of talk about vineyard developments, but he has not seen any and expects limited growth for two to three years.
"We are keen to see measured growth on true demand on our wine, not on speculative wine sales," he said.
- The Marlborough Express