Making great wine is only part of the wine business, after ensuring the quality is as good as it can be wine producers need to sell their product and because there are so many great wines available it is getting more difficult every year to get wines added to wine lists or stocked on supermarket and liquor store shelves.
For wine producers having a coordinated approach to marketing is vital and each wine producing region has an organisation that helps tell the world why they should by their wines, in Nelson’s case that is the role Wine Nelson fills.
Of course a cluster of businesses like wine producers needs more than just help with marketing and Nelson Wine Growers is the organistion that helps with everything else the industry needs, things like health and safety workshops, distributing information, gathering regional statistics and so many other things.
Nelson Wine Growers has two part-time employees who deliver these services, Jane Dougherty is the administration manager for Nelson Wine Growers while Meg Matthews is the marketing manager for Wine Nelson and both women bring a lot of experience and expertise to their roles.
Dougherty is a qualified winemaker so is well placed to know what support and services winemakers in the region need to help them make better wine while Matthews is a former marketing manager with Air New Zealand and WOW.
Recently when I asked them what they do Dougherty told me Matthews does the interesting stuff but I think she was selling her role a little short, sure the marketing is where some of the fun things happen (like tastings) but rounding up a bunch of winemakers and viticulturists to attend courses, workshops and tastings can be a wee bit of a challenge at times.
“Having worked in Central Otago and also for some world renowned producers overseas I have good understanding of the industry and of what it takes to make good wine.
“Nelson produces some phenomenal aromatic whites and Chardonnays, and we are lucky that we live in a region that is literal food basket for produce, seafood and with a huge array of artisan food producers.
“I was fortunate to move to a region that is filled with immensely talented people from all walks of life who have chosen to enter the wine industry because of their love of wine and the region and it’s exciting to work as part of the collaborative team of producers to help tell the unique Nelson story, which is an easy story to tell simply because we are unique and produce some world class wines. It’s hard not to get excited!”
A couple of weeks ago Dougherty, Cameron Trott, a winemaker at Greenhough Vineyards, and I judged the annual Colin Harrison Chardonnay Trophy looking for the best Chardonnay from the region and working with them in this capacity showed the value of having a winemaker working in this administration role, she brings an understanding of what help winemakers need to be able to strive to continually make better wine by sharing knowledge and experiences.
Matthews on the other hand brings a totally different skill set to her role, she was part of the marketing team for Air New Zealand where she was involved in rolling out some of the really innovating marketing ideas when Rob Fyfe was the CEO; remember the painted bodies loading planes and All Blacks delivering in-flight safety briefings to name just two cool marketing strategies.
She was also the Marketing Manager for WoW before taking on the part-time role at Wine Nelson as well as becoming a board member and director of a number of organisations in Nelson.
Matthews says she sees her role at Wine Nelson as “making sure the organisation assists the region with promoting Nelson Wines so that visitors put Nelson Wine on their itineraries, consumers put Nelson Wine on their tables, restaurants put Nelson Wine on their menus, key influencers put Nelson Wine on their review lists and locals share their pride of Nelson Wine with their networks”
One of the challenges Wine Nelson has is its success with a number of wine varieties; when you think about Central Otago the first thing that pops into your mind is Pinot Noir, think Marlborough and it is Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough equals Pinot Noir while when we think about Hawke’s Bay and Waiheke heavier style red wines come to mind.
However the Nelson wine region doesn’t hang its hat on one particular variety, it produces many varieties and styles of wine incredibly successfully.
While a mere 2.07% of New Zealand wine was produced in Nelson in 2015, at the 2015 Air New Zealand Wine Awards four Pure Gold medals were awarded to Nelson wineries and three were converted to trophies, that is about 17% of the varietal trophies awarded at the competition.
While this may seem to be unusually successful the reality is this type of result isn’t uncommon for Nelson wineries as evidenced by the recent successes at the Bragato Wine Show where 15% of the trophies were awarded to Nelson wines.
And then consider that wineries like Neudorf Vineyards and Greenhough Vineyards don’t enter competitions and that Neudorf Vineyards in particular is considered one of New Zealand’s very best wineries with their 2014 Moutere Chardonnay being awarded Bob Campbell’s very first 100 point score, his perfect wine!
In the last five years Nelson wineries have won trophies somewhere in the world for Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Albarino, Gewurztraminer, dessert wines, Montepulciano, Pinot Noir Syrah and a blended red wine.
Matthews says it is clear one attribute is a key contributor – cooperation between wineries. “There are many examples of wineries helping one another, from lending someone a piece of equipment to sitting around tasting tables and offering constructive criticism to help others make better wine, all with the aim of every producer in the region making the very best wine they can.”
The other thing Nelson wines have to offer is great value wines, and it is easily argued that many of the wines are under-valued in the market place.
Wines made in the Nelson region not only deliver very good to excellent quality across the region they have to be some of the very best value wines being produced in the country, I point to Bob Campbell’s perfect 100-point wine selling at a full retail price of just $65 while the Air NZ trophy winning Pinot Noir from Brightwater Vineyards retails for a mere $35.
Compare this to many average wines selling for much higher prices in regions famous for making Pinot Noir and where the regional brand drives the price points higher rather than the price being driven by quality.
Nelson is the small region that is achieving great things because it believes it can and you can taste new release wines from most of the wineries in the region at the annual New Release Tasting being organised by Wine Nelson at The Boat House on September 20th between 5pm and 7pm. Get details and the $40 entry tickets at www.winenelson.co.nz