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Marketing nous and environmental care keeps Riverland ahead

By Lawrie Stanford and Lauren Corsey

The Wine Industry Journal has been featuring a series of reports focusing on prominent wine-producing regions in Australia, written in conjunction with the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation. In the March/April issue this year, we took a look at Riverland, Australia’s largest GI region, accounting for a quarter of total Australian winegrape production.

South Australia’s Riverland region surrounds the River Murray from Blanchtown, through Renmark to the Victorian border. It seems South Australia’s Riverland region is not expected to expand dramatically in the next few years over the total vineyard area of 23,000ha in 2006.

Nevertheless, reflecting continued emerging demand for particular varieties, marginal amounts of new vine area will come on-stream with 482ha planted in 2006 while 436ha were removed. Also reflecting a ‘slowing’ in activity, both of these figures were half of the previous year.

There is little option for diversion of grapes into winemaking from other purposes. The Riverland represents a ‘dedicated’ wine-growing region with 99% of the total grape production used for winemaking. Production declined 2% in 2006 inline with a 2% decline in yields.

Reflecting the availability of supplementary water from the Murray, tonnages per hectare in the Riverland (at 20.9) were higher than the Australian average (at 12.5). Hence, while the Riverland accounted for around 14% of Australia’s bearing vine areas in 2006, it produced almost 26% of Australia’s winegrapes. Winegrape production is split as 54% red and 46% white. The two top red grape varieties, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, account for 69% of the region’s red wine production. Chardonnay, Colombard and Muscat Gordo Blanco comprise the major white grape varieties with 78% of total white winegrape production from the area.

Like the rest of Australia, Riverland winegrape prices have been in decline since 2002. In 2006, Riverland winegrapes averaged at A$377 per tonne compared to A$604 per tonne across Australia but were akin to the average prices recorded in the other warm inland districts (MurrayDarling-Swan Hill and Riverina). Reflecting the relatively greater demand for certain white varieties compared to reds at the moment, white winegrapes are worth more than red on average at A$385 per tonne versus A$370.

Prices for Riverland fruit were not helped in 2006 with winemakers’ access to red grapes sitting 26% over the preferred amount and white grapes 7% over.

The Riverland accounted for 18% of the volume of Australian exports in the year ended February 2007 – although more Riverland wine would have been exported in the generically identified 40% of volumes shipped as ‘South Eastern Australia’. Less than 1% of the volume of bottled shipments were labelled as Riverland wine.

The full article can be found in the March/April 2007 issue of the Wine Industry Journal.

More information and statistics can be found at AWBC winefacts

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