Sauvignon Blanc has become the premier grape variety in New Zealand eclipsing Chardonnay in tonnages harvested in 2001, according to the Wine Institute of New Zealand's newly published annual report.

For 2001, 20,826 tonnes of Sauvignon Blanc were vintaged compared with 17,067 of Chardonnay and 8015 of Pinot Noir in third place.

In 2000 the figures were 15,472 Sauvignon Blanc, 23,593 Chardonnay and 6319 Pinot Noir. The shift is also reflected in plantings with Sauvignon Blanc now only marginally behind Chardonnay. On forward estimates for production in 2003 there are 3427 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc 3527ha for Chardonnay.

The Institute reported that between 1998 and 2003 producing vineyard areas will grow at a compound rate of more than 12% a year. It estimated that in 2002 the vintage will come from nearly 1300ha.

"If current planting rates continue, a producing area of more than 15,000 hectares is expected in 2004; this will be 150% higher than a decade earlier."