New Zealand's wine industry has confirmed that it is expecting a record vintage this year.

In a statement released earlier this week the New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) said it anticipated a vintage of 150,000 - 170,000 tonnes, although there is the possibility of even higher levels.

A 160,000 tonne vintage (mid point in this range) would be 35% above the previous record vintage of 118,700 tonnes achieved in 2002, and 109% above the severely frost affected vintage of last year. 

In it half year report, NZW said estimated sales of New Zealand wine in the New Zealand market for the six months to 31 December 2003 are 19.2m litres, down 1m litres or 5% below the same period in 2002. The decrease in sales appears to reflect the reduced availability of wines following the smaller than expected 2003 vintage.

With reduced availability of wines following vintage 2003, export growth slowed dramatically in the 2nd half of 2003.  Shipments were 16.2 million litres for the review period, just 0.1 million litres (+ 0.7%) ahead of the corresponding months in 2002. This contrasts strongly with the June 2003 year when exports (in volume terms) lifted 18.4%, and the past decade's compound growth rate of 16% per annum.

In terms of individual exports markets, US market once again performed strongly in the review period, whereas sales in the UK and Australia were effectively static. The proportion of exports destined for these three major markets rose to 86.8% by volume, up from 82.8% in the comparable period in 2002, and 79.7% in 2001, suggesting an increasing focus on these markets as the core destinations for New Zealand wine.