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New Zealand wine exports to the United States are growing faster than to our traditional international markets of Australia and the UK, and that pace is being matched by increasing recognition at the top competitions.
In the five years from 2010-2015, exports of Kiwi wines increased three times faster than the UK and Australia. For the 12 months ended April 2015, New Zealand exported 5.88 million cases of wine to the US – up three million since 2010. During that period, exports to Australia increased to 6.4 million (4.8 million five years ago), and in the UK to 6.3 million (4.7 million).
Giesen Wines began exporting to the US in 1997 and these exports now make up ten percent of total sales.
Alex Giesen says the US market is changing dramatically from a New Zealand perspective.
“This is the fastest growing mature market and is increasing at a faster rate than Australia and the UK. We think it will become New Zealand’s biggest market by value and volume in the next 12 to 24 months. At the moment, it’s second by value and third by volume.
“With the growth the US has experienced in sales of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc over the past 10 years, we’re quickly gaining the reputation as a serious winemaking country.”
Giesen’s wines are winning impressive plaudits from international judges at US competitions. At the LA International Wine Competition Giesen won two Best of Class medals, five golds, three silvers and three bronze. And at the most recent New York International Wine Competition, it was named Marlborough Winery of the Year.
“The US has a real thirst for our wines, and particularly Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a very easy drinking, fruit forward varietal that’s always popular. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is really driving this category in the US now and this is being mirrored in its award success.
“Americans love the fruit forward, easy to understand style of the wines, at a very accessible price. Most Californian wines are almost twice the price of most New Zealand wines and, due to a hotter climate in California, the wines lack the crisp fruit characteristics and backbone of acidity we get from the cool Marlborough climate.” 
As part of its drive, Giesen moved to a new importer, Pacific Highway Wines and Spirits, in 2013 to help further the company’s reach in North America. And this year, it’s added three new sales managers and repackaged the Giesen Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for that market.
Giesen said 88% of Giesen’s exports to the US were Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, replicating overall industry trends.
“There are a lot of people in the US excited about what Giesen brings to the market by way of depth of portfolio and plethora of styles. The United States is (Americans are slowly) working out that the lower end priced/entry level Sauvignon Blancs are pretty one dimensional and, for an extra couple of dollars a bottle, they are getting something light years better. The sub $12 market sales are dropping off and are now being picked up by the $12-$20 category.”
While Sauvignon Blanc is by far the predominant category, Giesen is increasing its exports of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Gris.
“The US market is familiar with Sauvignon Blanc, and now it’s starting to understand Marlborough’s ability to produce outstanding examples of other varietals such as Pinot Gris, Syrah and Pinot Noir.”
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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