New Zealand's 2006 wine harvest has set a new record, according to recent figures.

The chief executive of New Zealand Winegrowers, the country's wine body, said today (1 June) that the grape harvest this year is in line with expectations and has produced a high quality vintage. Results of the New Zealand Winegrowers 2006 Vintage Survey show an 11% increase on the previous high of 166,000 tonnes set in 2004, coming in at 185,000 tonnes.

"This is good news for the New Zealand wine industry as we have unfulfilled demand for our premium wine in most export markets," Philip Gregan said.

This growth is a result of the 18% increase in producing vineyard area developed over the same timeframe. The 2005 vintage was down, at 142,000 tonnes, due to cool weather during the critical flowering period, the association noted.

"Grape growers and wine makers are pleased with the vintage," Gregan noted. "The size and quality of the harvest is due to good summer and autumn weather which meant grapes were picked when they were at their best.

"Despite the increased harvest, demand continues to outstrip supply for quality New Zealand wine in our key markets such as the US, UK and Australia.  Increased wine volumes are, however, also needed to grow sales in new countries such as Ireland where sales are up 55% this year.

"Sauvignon Blanc, our major export style, continues to grow in popularity as it is a good match with many of the foods and lifestyles of our customers around the globe."

Currently around 55% of New Zealand's production is exported and Gregan said the 2006 vintage will help lift exports from around 60m litres in 2006 to over 75m litres forecast for 2007.