New Zealand has broken the US$1bn barrier for wine exports, a year ahead of schedule, according to trade body New Zealand Winegrowers.

Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers, said yesterday (15 September) that the industry exported $1.01bn of wine in the year to 31 July, the equivalent of five bottles per second, according to Statistics New Zealand.

"The phenomenal long-term growth of New Zealand wine exports has been based on a industry-wide commitment to world class quality, in our vineyards, in our wineries and in our marketing and sales efforts," Gregan said.

"The wine industry has grown to become an important and internationally-competitive part of the New Zealand economy.

"New Zealand wine still has enormous opportunity globally with strong demand from key markets, notably Australia, the UK and the US, as well as increasingly from Asian and continental European markets."

Last month, the New Zealand wine industry reported a 24% increase in the value of wine exports in the year to the end of June.

Wine exports reached NZ$992m, up NZ$194m on the previous year.

However, the industry faces a challenge to prevent surplus wine stocks damaging both profits and the country's reputation for quality.