Powerhouse winemaking couple Erica and Kim Crawford mortgaged their home in 1996 to start a business that’s become one of the most renowned producers of Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
The brand is currently marking its 25th birthday with a series of global celebrations, while the Crawfords have been raising a glass to the incredible memories they’ve created along the way.
“Personally, it’s been so great for Kim and to stop and reflect what has been achieved,” Erica (above) tells Drinks Digest. “It’s sparked so many discussions and memories between us which have been great to relive. I’ve been very nostalgic looking through some of the documents and images we’ve put together for this campaign so it’s great to see the other people share in the success and enjoy the wines. It’s a brand steeped in resilience and that is what we are celebrating as it’s something we can all identify with.”
The pair broke the conventions of the wine world at the time and began a ‘virtual winery’, buying grapes from contract growers in the Marlborough region and making wine in other people’s wineries.
While Kim created the wine, Erica managed the business. The Kim Crawford brand has grown dramatically during the last 25 years with annual sales volume of $26.7 million and is now the largest New Zealand wine brand by volume in both the US and Canada.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc has become the benchmark Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and has been named in the Wine Spectator Top 100 four times.
“We started this dream from our home in Auckland, New Zealand and hoped it would succeed,” Erica said.
“In the mid 1990s, the world started noticing Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, so we decided to put it all on the line and start our own brand. Our approach to this was to counter a market flooded with oak aged Chardonnay and the result was a truly unique expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that stood out compared to existing examples on the market at the time.”
Innovation at the heart of Kim Crawford success
Committed to innovation, Kim Crawford was the first wine label to move to screwcap closures in New Zealand, a practice that is an industry standard today. The brand has also developed the Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc, a low calorie, low alcohol, white wine option.
“We do things unconventionally, take risks, start things, and welcome difference – these are just some of the reasons that the Kim Crawford brand has resonated over the years,” Erica said.
“Betterment and lower-alcohol is so popular now, people generally are becoming more conscious of their health and alcohol consumption so we wanted to create something for people who love Kim Crawford but have a different occasion and consumption in mind, which is how the Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc was born.
“The Kim Crawford Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc still has the same taste profile and flavours as the original Kim Crawford but with lower alcohol and low calorie so people don’t have to compromise on taste. The Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc is 7% alcohol and only 72 calories per serve.
“We’ve seen a great response so far which is fantastic, we have some loyal customers who know the brand and want an alternative for different occasions. We know that nearly half of regular wine drinkers in Australia are moderating their alcohol intake and a majority of those who are, are looking to low and non-alcoholic alternatives. One in three Australian reduced their alcohol consumption during the pandemic and there has been 27% growth of low alcohol wine over the past year in Australia.”
New Zealand sauvignon blanc juggles unprecedented demand
There are predictions that New Zealand will not be able to satisfy forecast global demand for Sauvignon Blanc in 2022, due to an exceptionally small harvest this year.
The harvest was 20% down on 2020, with Sauvignon Blanc the variety worst affected. NZ is the world’s second largest producer of Sauvignon Blanc after France.
“2021 did see lower harvest yields right across the industry largely due to weather, and this coupled with unprecedented global demand for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has created a supply-demand challenge,” Erica admitted.
“Fortunately, the quality of the vintage was exceptional and the longer-term outlook for supply is positive. We’re looking forward to a bumper harvest in 2022!”