Fresh ideas needed: winemaker

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Misha Wilkinson, of Misha’s Vineyard, Cromwell, is one of the first two women to be elected to the New Zealand Winegrowers board.

While women have been appointed to the board before, she and Emma Taylor, of Villa Maria, Hawkes Bay, are the first to be elected.

Mrs Wilkinson is concerned about issues including excise tax increases, lack of product diversity and compliance costs.

‘‘It has been a tough year for lot of wineries with Covid-19 not helping,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s the time for some fresh thinking and fresh ideas about the direction we should move.’’

She was nominated about six weeks ago and spent the next five weeks campaigning throughout the country, before then hearing she had been successful.
‘‘It is my first time on a board.’’

She and husband, Andy, have a 57ha site near Cromwell, of which 26ha is planted in grapes.

They produce about 12,000 cases of pinot noir and aromatic white wine annually, half of which is exported.

‘‘I didn’t put my hand up; rather, some board members from the Central Otago Winegrowers Association [COWGA] came to see me and asked me to think about it.
‘‘I said no initially as that was not me, but then I thought about it for the next 48 hours.’’

She researched the industry and realised how important the board election was, and felt she could make a difference.

The more than 1300 members of the national association each have a vote in four-yearly elections.

‘‘These elections provided the best opportunity for small wineries and vineyards to get a seat on the board.’’

She was concerned that, of the industry’s $1.92 billion export earnings, 88% was sauvignon blanc. Pinot noir was the second most exported.

‘‘While sauvignon blanc are growing, pinot noir exports declined by 17% last year.’’

Another issue was compliance costs, especially for small wineries.

If wineries wanted to sell wine tastings, under the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act they must also supply food and that meant a commercial kitchen and associated compliance costs.

Otherwise they had to offer tastings for free.

‘‘Compliance costs are crazy and onerous. There needs to be a change to the Act.’’