Hard seasons pass – your support is evergreen.
This article is a special feature by Nick Devlin, Naked’s CEO
Drought. Late-season hail. Frost.
You wouldn’t know it from their smiling faces, but New Zealand’s top winemakers have experienced devastating weather as of late.
That’s on top of two stacked years of shipping delays, wines halted at port, and non-stop fluctuation of supply and demand.
To put it lightly, it’s been raining curveballs on the islands.
And in truth, it’s easy for most winemakers to be worried. Can they weather all the storms?
Hail is no winemaker’s friend. Extreme seasons and shocking temperatures can not only change how wines are made; but if they’re made.
Put that on top of supply shortages as the world adapts to new working order, and it can determine if a small winery thrives, or closes up shop.
Dark clouds have loomed too long for Kiwis. Of the headlining weather events just listed, New Zealand’s winemakers have experienced all three in the last 3 years.
Grape loss has coupled with a surge in demand for New Zealand’s most famous export – Sauvignon Blanc – and the reserves are coming up short.
“Each season we are seeing new extremes,” Waipara winemaker Nicky Parish said. “In 2019 and 2020, we were in near drought conditions… this harvest, we had unprecedented rain events.”
Demand was too high for their super-low producing year.
While recent harvests have been low-yield years for producers like Nicky, other New Zealanders have seen fair weather and great yields – transportation was the sting. Shipping and transit delays post-COVID-19 meant their wines just couldn’t reach the States effectively.
Both scenarios are devastating outcomes for locally owned wineries trying to make up profits after a few years of uncertainty.
What happens when weather destroys the chance of harvest? Are winemakers left out in the cold?
While the biggest growers and multinational brands can ride out the storms and diversify risk through extensive landholdings, independent producers are too reliant on the cash flow from an annual crop to be able to sustain their business.
…and that’s when cellar doors can close.
Can anything be done?
Is there hope for winemakers? Absolutely – you’re helping us bring it. At Naked, we firmly believe a better way exists.
Unlike the three-tier wine industry, we can commit to long-term buys with independent winemakers, and they, in turn, can build long-term relationships with vineyards, through thick and thin.
Traditional retailers can’t pivot from their standard buy plans, but Naked has the flexibility to work closely with winemakers to help them pivot when nature throws a curveball.
And because we know winemakers’ personal stories, triumphs, and tribulations first-hand, we can lend a hand more than most.
When life doesn’t give you Sauvignon Blanc…
With the help of Angels, the up-front funding we supply – in great years and bad – ensures winemakers can do what they do best: Make amazing wines when crops are great…. and unexpected delights when nature doesn’t cooperate.
That might mean more New Zealand Pinot Gris or Rosé comes to the scene in years where Sauvignon Blanc comes up short…
Or it might just mean promising to look after our winemakers, whether they produce a big harvest or none.
That’s why customer support rings especially true in challenging years. Angels have helped producers Bill & Claudia Small, Nicky Parish, and Rod Easthope get through hard times and continue to make wines, despite the uncertainty they face.
“It’s unheard of here to have such strong [long-term] agreements with growers, “ said Claudia Small.” “Angels really impact our ability to thrive in hard seasons.”
Weather, combined with those couple of hard years in the supply chain (getting wines from New Zealand to the US has been tricky to say the least!) has really added to the stress.
“We’ve got a tiny, wee shipping port – sometimes the boats forget about us,” said Bill Small.
Bill’s not too worried – he knows that Angels will show support for him and Claudia’s Small & Small wines, even if they arrive a couple of months later than expected.
That’s where your community shines through!
This year we’ve helped Nicky Parish and her family winery, Dunnolly Estate, by signing on a specialty one-off Rosé to offset the frost losses to her estate fruit.
With that support, Nicky and dad Peter can focus on delivering a great next harvest, and Angels can discover beautiful wines they might not have seen anyway else.
Similarly, we’ve helped Rod commit to long-term contracts to help secure as much fruit as possible while weather improves – at sensible prices.
What does the future hold?
Winemakers, like all farmers, are on the frontlines of an evolving world – and there’s always a bit of uncertainty with harvest.
From hail to frost through wildfires to drought, when you rely on nature to sustain your business, you’re bound to experience wins and losses.
Our business extends the help when hard seasons come to places like New Zealand, and we’re able to do that because of your support.
Should you worry about your Sauvignon Fix?
Naked’s Angels are lucky. When you’re a customer, you back some of the very best producers of Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
…So you shouldn’t worry too much if New Zealand’s selection is light this year – you fund impeccable Sauvignon everywhere, from the tiniest parcels in South Africa’s Western Cape to the hills of Slovenia.
But if you especially love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (I sure do), you’ll notice the next couple of vintages will be more scarce than usual.
Be sure to follow our New Zealand winemakers for updates in the meantime.
If not Sauvignon, you’ll find some special new varieties in store while we wait for new vintages to come…
Follow our New Zealand winemakers and you’ll be the first to know when they release!
And fear not. There’s a world of amazing wine out there to discover, while we all wait for the return of our favorite wines in future fruitful years.
In any case, the producers you fund are so grateful to be kept on their feet after a rough patch.
PS – Have you seen less New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the market, and wondered why? Looking for recommendations of more wines to try? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.