Early adoption is the name of the game for companies participating in New Zealand Winegrowers’ Lighter Wines Primary Growth Partnership programme, co-funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The largest research and development initiative ever undertaken by the New Zealand wine industry, Lighter Wines is designed to position New Zealand as number one in the world for high-quality, lower alcohol and lower calorie wines (defined as wines containing less than 10% alcohol by volume).
The $16-million, seven-year programme (which started in 2014), aims to capitalise on market-led opportunities both at home and overseas.
The challenge is not simply to produce lower alcohol wines, but to focus research on natural production using sustainable viticultural techniques and native yeasts. This focus provides our 18 industry partners with a point of difference to other offerings in the market.
Another point of difference can be seen in the market-driven approach. Where research projects may once have focused on problem-solving complex viticultural issues, Lighter Wines aims to drive export growth. As a result, marketing is one of five pillars supporting the programme, along with research in viticulture, winemaking and sensory profiling in tandem with extension (skills development).
So far, Kiwi consumers have demonstrated a growing appetite for lighter wines, with New Zealand sales in this category already eclipsing the original target set for 2024. In effect, the domestic market is providing the programme with a “category laboratory” – enabling participants to test their new wine styles on an enthusiastic audience at home before launching their campaigns overseas.
The challenge is not simply to produce lower alcohol wines. Research undertaken as part of the programme focuses on natural production using sustainable viticultural techniques and native yeasts – a focus that offers industry partners a point of difference to other offerings in the market.