Wine exports from New Zealand last year registered a leap of almost a third on 2005, according to figures published today (9 February).

New Zealand Winegrowers said export earnings came in at NZ$611m (US$416m), a jump of 30% on the same period a year earlier. The trade organisation pointed to annual earnings two and a half years ago of $300m as an indication of the strength of the country's wine industry.

Exports to New Zealand's main export markets performed strongly, with shipments to the US up 25%, exports to the UK rising by 22% and sales to Australia up 47%. Together, these markets accounted for 83% of exports by value in 2006.

"There has been continued growth in our core markets of the UK, US and Australia, but there has also been very encouraging increases in our secondary markets: Canada is up 60% over the previous year, Denmark is up 51% and Ireland up 41% in value," said New Zealand Winegrowers global marketing director Chris Yorke.

"For the first time, exports to our second tier markets (outside the UK, US and Australia) topped $100m for the year, up 30% in value."

In terms of varieties, while Sauvignon Blanc continues to lead export volumes, with a 25% growth in volume over the last year, Pinot Noir is establishing itself as New Zealand's second most exported variety, showing 41% growth.

"Almost 40% of our Pinot Noir exports go to the US, a market that we expect to be our largest overall export destination by value in 2008," Yorke continued.

"Our ambitious growth and marketing strategies are clearly paying off and the wine industry is on-track to achieve export earnings in excess of $1bn by 2010."