Kiwi wine industry under threat as millennials drink less, warns expert

It's no secret that Kiwis love our wine, especially the locally grown stuff. But while five million glasses of New Zealand wine are consumed around the world every day, an expert says consumption is actually declining, impacting one of our largest industries.

Wine writer Michael Cooper is regarded as an expert in our local industry, launching his 27th annual wine guide this week.

But Cooper says our wine industry is under threat, as more millennials are avoiding booze, in search of a healthier lifestyle.

"In the UK - a key export market for NZ wine - nearly 30 percent of people aged 16 to 25 now avoid all alcoholic beverages, including wine," says Cooper.

"The only age group which is drinking more wine is the oldest  those in the 65-plus category.

"There are clear signs of a similar pattern in New Zealand.  I see many people in their 20s who either don't drink at all or only very occasionally."

According to his new book, in 2009 Kiwis consumed an average of 21.5 litres of wine per year, but our typical consumption has now eased to 19.2 litres per head.

The fall in our consumption of New Zealand wine is reportedly even steeper with decline of 20 percent.

Two wineries have recently been placed in receivership; Vinoptima in Gisborne and Mahana in Nelson. Cooper believes there will be more to come.

"Many small wineries were established during the 1990s by affluent 'baby boomers', then aged in their 40s.  Now they are in their mid-late 60s and keen to sell up," says Cooper. "The number of wineries in New Zealand peaked six years ago and the industry is facing more and more consolidation. 

"Some of these small wine companies simply close down; others are acquired by the biggest companies, which are often overseas-owned."

The enforcement of drink-driving laws has encouraged a more moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, including wine, in New Zealand.

Rabobank suggested recently that the legalisation of marijuana in North America may also pose a threat to winegrowers, with some wine consumers expected to view marijuana as a "substitute".    

Cooper himself says that his own wine consumption hasn't declined, tasting around 3000 locally produced wines in the last year - around eight a day - to write his newest guide.




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