By: Yvonne O’Hara
In the 20 years since Janiene Bayliss and husband David Pratt established their Ata Mara vineyard near Cromwell, she has seen the Central Otago wine industry grow rapidly.
There are increasingly challenging hurdles to overcome and benefits to harvest.
She said challenges included finding more workers to fill the increasing number of seasonal and permanent vacancies and how to provide accommodation for them.
Another was how to make school leavers more aware of the variety of careers available within the industry.
Branding and benchmarking were increasingly important tools to improve sales, as was wine tourism.
Bayliss said she had seen New Zealand wine drinkers becoming more discerning about what they would try or buy.
”Many New Zealanders are now looking for regional wines, wines that are recommended, and they are more willing to try new varieties,” she said.
Bayliss and her husband, David Pratt, have 27ha and produce 12,000 cases of award-winning wines annually.
”We do about 70 per cent of that in pinot noir as well as gruner veltliner, as the growing conditions here are similar to those in Austria,” Bayliss said.
”Chardonnay grows well down here and we are doing a little bit this year to see what it grows like, and will have more next year.
”Cool climate whites do really well in Central Otago as we get that lovely crispness, outstanding fruit, and aroma.”
A director and owner-grower of Ata Mara, Bayliss has also been a brand and business and career consultant and business mentor, and established the Women in Wine group, a support network for women in the industry.
The couple are planning to convert to organic practices and grew about 3000 native trees in their propagation unit last year as part of that.
She and her husband are qualified winemakers, and he is also a qualified vineyard manager, although winemaker Peter Bartle makes their wine.
They enter wine competitions, including the international Decanter World Wine Awards, which attracts about 16,500 entries.
Their 2015 riesling won the Decanter 2016 platinum trophy. Other vintages have won gold and silver medals.
”I feel it is important to benchmark our wines with overseas wines and see how they rank,” she said.
”Brand awareness around Central Otago wines is also very high.”
That sells more wine, which in turn creates jobs for young people.
However, although more jobs were available, and they would like to have more young people keen to work in Central Otago, that is not generally happening.
”That is probably more to do with other people’s backyards being more exciting than ‘my own backyard’,” she said.
On the other hand, Central Otago has become more attractive to winemakers and viticulturalists from the northern hemisphere who wish to gain further experience.
”Every second day I see emails with CVs from someone wanting to work down here,” she said.
She said more school-leavers as well as teachers and careers advisers needed to be made aware of the variety of career opportunities available in the wine industry, from vineyard work and winemaking, to sales, marketing, cellar doors, logistics and finances.