Vine Sight expands into New Zealand

Vine Sight expands into New Zealand

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Vine Sight’s Tom and Alison Stephens have been removing and re-working vines across Australia for more than five years. In August the business received its first New Zealand contract, opening up a range of opportunities for the business in a new market.

Expert help for removing vines is now available across Australia and New Zealand and the services of a business like Vine Sight can make the job less time consuming and actually save a vineyard owner thousands of dollars in the long term. Vine Sight has spent years establishing a well-respected business in Australia and jumped at the opportunity to take its streamlined operation across the water when it received its first contract with New Zealand’s Duck Creek Wines. “Like many Australian wine businesses, using us to re-work or pull varieties that aren’t producing optimum quality is keeping them in the wine industry,” Tom Stephens, Vine Sight owner and viticulturist said.

Paul Syms, who runs Duck Creek Wines located in Stillwater, North Island, decided to downsize his vineyard so he could focus on managing a smaller area. He discovered Vine Sight through reviews in specialist publications and said he was confident the job would be done properly. “I initially looked for local New Zealand-based companies that could do the work and found none so I searched the web and looked further afield,” Syms said.

“Vine Sight was my first and only contact as they were immediately helpful and keen to do the work which they completed in one week.” Syms’ vineyard was three hectares in total – one hectare was leased and had gone back to its landlord and of the remaining two hectares, Vine Sight removed 80 per cent. While the vines were in pristine condition and produced some of the best red wines in New Zealand, Syms said they were removed because he was working “very hard for nothing” due to the high level of regulation, the costs and complexity of operating and the strong NZ dollar.

“To operate I need to undergo two annual audits which have significant fees,” he said. “I also need to have a manager’s liquor license and the winery requires an off-license. Again, both of these are expensive, not to mention I need to have a spray license, so it really wasn’t worth keeping the vines.”

For a small business like Duck Creek Wines, Syms said there was “too much expertise across too many fields” for a one man show and he could see things getting worse which was another reason for hiring Vine Sight. “My dream was to make a great red wine and enjoy myself. I still love making the wine but the bureaucracy has taken its toll financially,” he says. “I have therefore decided to reduce production down to a level that will service just the New Zealand market. There are many other wineries, particularly in the Auckland area where wineries tend to be smaller, that have the same concerns as I do.”

To get the job done in the most efficient way possible, Vine Sight exported its specialised equipment but hired local bobcats. “We take all our jobs very seriously and our  experience in cost-effective vine removal was carried out as if we were on Australian soil,” Stephens said. “This is the way Vine Sight goes about vineyard removal and re-working that makes the company and its services appealing to clients.”

Aside from having an experienced viticulturist as the business owner, Vine Sight’s procedure, equipment and understanding of the industry was at the forefront of the company. Stephens said he has the long term goal that with more vineyard removal and
re-working, the reputation of the New Zealand wine industry will continue to grow. “We continue to focus on meeting more people in wine regions across Australia and New Zealand, working with growers to help their businesses and providing a contracting service that is cheaper than the business carrying out the work themselves.”

Syms also believed there were opportunities in New Zealand for professional vine removal and said he intended to contact local industry networks and contacts to discover what level of interest there might be. Meanwhile in Australia, Vine Sight pulled more vines
in 2014 than previous years, proving more businesses were resorting to pulling or re-working their vines.

“We are busier than we have ever been and have expanded our team and equipment to reflect that,” Stephens said. “People are really looking at their vineyards from a business perspective and while removal comes with a cost, it’s the last cost.” He said Vine Sight can officially promote a vineyard removal and re-working service in New Zealand and has left equipment in the country for future work.

We continue to focus on meeting more people in wine regions across Australia and New Zealand, working with growers to help their businesses and providing a contracting service that’s cheaper than owners carrying out the work themselves.

Source: November 2014 – Issue 610 Grapegrower & Winemaker 49
By: Stephanie Timotheou

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