NZ wine growers feeling confident

New Zealand winegrowers are confident they will see another record harvest this year.

But their southern hemisphere competitors have been hampered by drought, severe frosts and bad fruit set.

A Rabobank Wine Quarterly report released yesterday said favourable growing season conditions in New Zealand suggested last year's 345,000-tonne harvest could be rivalled this year and exports were ''firmly back in growth''.

Crops in other southern hemisphere wine-growing countries would probably be smaller, because of adverse conditions, and some were seeing falling exports, it said.

Australian growers experienced a severe and widespread heat wave and yields were expected to be slightly lower than last year.

Chilean growers experienced severe frost, which particularly affected chardonnay and pinot noir varieties, though wineries are not expected to be hit hard, thanks to bumper crops in 2012 and 2013 which were still driving export growth.

Argentinian growers might be looking at a normal harvest, but some incidences of poor fruit set had been reported.

South African growers are also looking at a slightly lighter harvest.

New Zealand Winegrowers Association president Steve Green said the 2014 New Zealand harvest hinged on the weather remaining good and the grapes being of good quality.

If everything went in their favour, he said there was no reason not to expect another record harvest to equal or build on the 2013 vintage.

''So far, it's looking pretty good and everyone is quietly confident we will get a good vintage.''

The ''quite small'' 2012 vintage and resulting low export numbers were boosted by last year's vintage, and it was hoped they would be further boosted by this year's vintage.

Mr Green said he thought international demand for New Zealand wine was rising ''but the big task is to continue to grow the value''.

A focus was being put on the growth markets of Asia and North America. China especially had ''huge potential''.

The high New Zealand dollar continued to be the ''biggest barrier'' to all exporters, he said.

That meant ''we don't get the margins so [our] prices are always going to be lower ... it also makes it more difficult to access those markets.

''When you send wine into those markets, prices are going to be higher in those markets because of our high dollar, so we don't sell as much.''

The 2013 vintage was up 28% on the 2012 crop and 5% on 2011.

Central Otago experienced a 4% increase, from 8115 tonnes in 2012 to 8407 last season.

sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz