New Zealand exported a record amount of wine in February, according to latest figures released by New Zealand Winegrowers.

Export volumes for the year to February 2005 exceeded 44m litres for the first time, a 55% growth on the previous year, while the Sauvignon Blanc exports for the same period exceeded 31m litres - setting a new record and a 76% increase on the previous year.

New Zealand Winegrowers CEO, Philip Gregan, says exports have surged following the release of the strong 2004 vintage.

"The 2004/2005 year is set to be a watershed year for the industry, with total exports expected to approach 50 million litres by June 2005," said Gregan.

"Our export successes are the culmination of several factors - the record 2004 vintage, increasing international recognition for the quality of our wines, and increased promotional and marketing efforts in key offshore markets."

A total of 4.2m litres of wine were exported in February, equivalent to 467,000 cases, up 83% from February 2004. 

A new record was set with exports to the US in excess of 10.5m litres for the year to February 2005, up 60% on the previous twelve-month period.

Shipments to the UK increased 43% on the previous year to 18.9m litres, while exports to Australia are up 92% to 8.1m litres.

Sauvignon Blanc remains New Zealand's strongest selling varietal in overseas markets, with 2.8m litres exported in February and 31 million litres  for the year to February 2005. 

Pinot Noir exports rose to 2.2m litres for the twelve months to February 2005, up 57% on the previous 12 months and Cabernet, Merlot and blends rose 43% in the same period to 1.4m litres.

"The successful year to date figures reinforce our growing status on the world stage and place us in good stead of achieving our year-end export targets," said Gregan.