New Zealand sauvignon blanc could disappear from shelves in run-up to Christmas

Major sauvignon blanc wine regions have seen a slump in harvests

Joanna Whitehead
Thursday 07 October 2021 14:01 BST
Poor weather, labour shortages and increased shipping costs are affecting the UK’s wine supplies
Poor weather, labour shortages and increased shipping costs are affecting the UK’s wine supplies (Getty Images)

Some of the UK’s favourite wines could disappear from supermarket shelves this Christmas amid a global shortage.

A combination of poor weather, labour shortages and increased shipping costs is threatening Britain’s wine supplies, with prices rises likely to follow, warns the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA).

The Marlborough, Nelson and Wairarapa wine regions in New Zealand, the second largest producer of sauvignon blanc grapes in the world after France, have seen a 20 per cent drop in yields compared with 2020, while frosts and poor weather in France are expected to result in a 29 per cent drop in the production of French wine.

The UK, one of the largest export markets for sauvignon blanc, is also struggling with supply chain issues such as a lack of lorry drivers, fuelling speculation that consumers may go short in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Elsewhere, California’s wine output has been badly affected by wildfires, while extreme summer droughts and wildfires in Italy are expected to result in a nine per cent drop in yield.

And in the Champagne region of France, home of the eponymous sparkling wine, harvests are down 60 per cent.

Chris Stroud, market manager Europe, New Zealand Winegrowers, comments: “New Zealand sauvignon blanc is one of Britain’s favourite wines but there’s a very real possibility that consumers will find it harder to get their hands on it this winter.

“The strong demand coupled with a significant shortfall in vintage, as the combination of labour shortages and increased shipping costs hits supplies, means that there will be tough decisions to make to meet the demands of trade customers, retailers and consumers.”

He adds: “Wines from vintage 2021 promise to be something special, but the question may just be whether there is enough to go around.”

James Reed, general manager of New Zealand House of Wine, acknowledged that while there have been problems with grape harvests and supply chain issues, he was hopeful that consumers would be able to enjoy their favourite wines this year.

“Do I think the consumer is going to be unable to buy sauvignon blanc or wines from New Zealand this Christmas? Probably not,” he tells The Independent.

“There will probably be less variety on the market, as certain wineries have been hit a bit harder than others, but I don’t anticipate there being a complete lack of wine available. I know that we - and other retailers - are doing their level best to make sure they’ve got enough stock to support their customers.”

Almost a third (32 per cent) of UK adults who drink alcohol said that wine was their favourite alcoholic drink, according to a poll published by YouGov in January.

Beer and spirits came joint-second in the rankings, with 25 per cent each.

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