Innovation drives NZ wine industry

Savouring a glass of velvety Central Otago pinot noir or a crisp Marlborough sauvignon blanc is essential to the complete New Zealand food and wine experience.

New Zealand’s relatively young wine industry is considered on par with some of the best in the world, mostly thanks to innovative Kiwi vineyard owners and winemakers who’re taking a traditional art to a new level.

The Kiwi ‘no 8 wire’ attitude comes to the fore when devising novel new ideas and concepts to help revolutionise grape-growing and winemaking processes. Most New Zealand wineries are also environmentally-conscious, with many aiming to be completely carbon neutral in the long run.

As wine drinkers grow more discerning in their tipple of choice, New Zealand’s wine maestros are upping their game, devising fresh new ideas to make better wine through the use of more efficient wine technology.

NZ’s greenest winery

When Peter Yealands launched Yealands Estate in 2008, it was with the vision of creating the world’s most sustainable winery. It is New Zealand’s largest carbon zero winery.

The award-winning winery (33 awards in its first year) has come up with many innovations to honour these environmental commitments. This includes the application of cutting edge technology, insulation and general work practices that have resulted in the winery being two times more efficient in energy utilisation than the New Zealand wine industry standard.

Cutting edge technology includes a vineyard and winery first, burning vine prunings to produce renewable energy. About 10% of prunings goes into energy production, the remainder are mulched back into the soil. The prunings annually eliminate over 100 tonnes of greenhouse emissions in the form of carbon dioxide. The ashes are returned to the vineyard as fertiliser.

Yealands’ innovative practices include the use of rare ‘mini’ sheep to help mow the vineyard. The babydoll sheep, imported from Australia for NZ$3000 each, are too small to damage the vines yet can naturally harvest the grass and withstand predator attack. Yealands calculates that as the flock increases in size, they could save the vineyard NZ$1.3 million a year in mowing and spraying costs - not to mention the returns provided in terms of meat and wool. It’s also a means to helping protect the rare breed for the future.

Wine Research Centre

The Marlborough Wine Research Centre – established in 2003 and located in Blenheim, in the Marlborough wine region - is at the heart of New Zealand vine technology and the fast-paced development of the wine industry.

This independent science-based research organisation works with universities and research facilities to provide scientific leadership and technological development to support development of the region’s natural resources in a sustainable way.

The Wine Research Centre is internationally recognised for its research into sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, two of the region’s best known wines. 

It is currently running New Zealand’s first large-scale wine research project into the sauvignon blanc grape, which aims to help the industry understand the unique qualities of Marlborough sauvignon blanc and ensure that it maintains its international reputation.

Remote control wine

A Kiwi company that makes temperature and fermentation equipment for wine vats has earned an international reputation in the wine industry.

Wine Technology Marlborough’s VinWizard - a central remote control system that allows temperature in wine tanks to be controlled automatically - is being used by time-strapped wineries all over the world. Temperature control is a key part of the fermentation process, as it determines the quality of the wine.

The system is currently used by more than 100 vineyards in six countries worldwide, and has established a foothold in North and South America, Australia and Spain.

The VinWizard frees up time for winemakers, as they are able to manage vats remotely and could also save up to 50% on energy consumption.

Wine Technology Marlborough owner David Gill says the ‘green’ nature of the technology will also make it appealing for environmentally-conscious wineries: "Refrigeration is costly and energy-intensive. By reducing energy costs around 30% to 50%, we can help the winemaker reduce his carbon footprint. It certainly helps the winemaker towards his goal of carbon neutrality."

More information

New Zealand wine industry

Marlborough lists as top wine destination

NZ wine industry committed to sustainability