The impact of COVID-19 on the New Zealand wine industry and Bladen

We checked in with Chris Macdonald at Bladen in the Marlborough region of New Zealand to see how COVID-19 has impacted their farm and the wine industry in general.

Robyn: What impact has COVID had on the New Zealand wine industry?

Chris: We are ever so grateful that the New Zealand wine industry fell into the category of an essential service! COVID-19 hit New Zealand right at the beginning of the harvest and for a few days, we were completely unsure if we were going to be able to bring in our crop or make our wine. This was an incredibly nervous time for us all. 

Robyn: How has this impacted Bladen directly?

Chris: I would never have believed it if someone had said “there is going to be a pandemic to deal with”. But there you go! 

We just had to adapt to the restrictions put on us by the government and get on with it. This entailed a lot of planning so all vineyard and winery staff could achieve the mandatory 2-meter distancing. We worked in very tight ‘bubbles’ to ensure there was no spread of Covid-19. If there had been an outbreak in one winery in Marlborough, we may all been closed down! I think the whole industry was impacted and we all worked to look after each other.

Robyn: Tell us about the 2020 harvest and what we can look forward to from the 2020 vintages?

Chris: Every cloud has a silver lining and the weather at harvest was calm and dry and the grapes from 2020 were incredible. This is really one of the loveliest vintages Marlborough has had in years.  And now the wines are starting to come together, we are very happy indeed.

Robyn: What creative ways is Bladen using to boost sales for the vineyard?

Chris: When we went into lockdown and New Zealand closed its borders, we had to close our Vineyard Cellar Door as well. Amazingly we also had our daughter Deni visiting from Dubai at that time. As she couldn’t return home to her photography life in the Middle East, she started working for us. You may have spotted that our Instagram account is now busy with new stories and posts thanks to Deni's input. This has helped build our on-line presence and along with it our online sales.  You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook @bladenwines.

Robyn: What exciting plans do you have for customers planning to visit once COVID is over and international travel is freed up?

Chris: While in lockdown it was decided that our son Blair (who started working with us 18 months ago) and Deni will take a more up-front roll in the cellar door this coming season. They have organized a Cellar Door makeover and is now fresh and new and is looking great! Just waiting until October when we open again for the seasonWhen you call in for a tasting, they will share our story with you over a glass of wine and you will be able to see our 30 years of history on our photo wall. Of course, Dave and I will still be floating around to say hi!  

Robyn: How can our UK customers help Bladen while travel is banned?

Chris: It’s easy! If you've tasted with us here at our vineyard in Marlborough or experienced our wines elsewhere and fancy another wee tipple of deliciousness, you can purchase at htfwines.co.uk or bladen.co.nz. We thank you for supporting us and appreciate your custom.  Also, we look forward to seeing you all again!

Robyn: Is there anything else you would like HTFW customers to know that is going on at Bladen?

Chris: Keep watching Hard to Find Wines' posts for when our new-release wines come through. As we continue to work together to stop the spread of Covid-19, let’s hope we can still find time to enjoy a fabulous glass of wine or two (preferably Bladen ? ).  There is comfort in knowing that one day this will be just a story for our future grandchildren.

Kia kaha. Stay safe.