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Australia – Chenin Blanc exports break 2.4ML in 2007

By Peter Bailey, senior analyst, Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation

Chenin Blanc is a relatively minor variety in Australia and the area under vine has been declining in recent years. According to the ABS 2006 Vineyard Survey, there were 710ha of Chenin Blanc under vine in 2006. This is lower than the recorded peak of 970ha in 2000, but still higher than the area in the 1980s (400–500ha).

Reduced vineyard areas of Chenin Blanc contributed to tonnages falling by a quarter between 2000 and 2006, from 15,147t to 11,497t. In 2006, the Australian Regional Winegrape Crush Survey (ARWCS) showed that winemakers crushed 9% more Chenin Blanc than they would have preferred.

According to the ARWCS, Chenin Blanc is priced at a discount compared with the average of all white winegrapes. In 2006, the average price received for Chenin Blanc was $490/t compared with $544/t for all white winegrapes. In contrast, the higher-priced Sauvignon Blanc was priced at $1052/t while the lower-priced Colombard was priced at $291/t.

There were around 150 wineries using Chenin Blanc in 2006. South Australia and Western Australia are the leading Chenin Blanc producers, accounting for just over three quarters of Chenin Blanc production in 2006. South Australia produced 5112t (a 44% share) and Western Australia produced 3733t (a 32% share). In terms of bearing area, Western Australia is number one with 324ha (a 47% share) and South Australia second with 232ha (a 34% share), reflecting a higher South Australian yield due to a concentration of Chenin Blanc plantings in the Riverland.

The Riverland accounted for 37% of Australia’s Chenin Blanc production in 2006. Western Australia’s Swan District (19%) and Margaret River (11%) were next, followed by the New South Wales’ Riverina (10%) and the Murray-Darling region (6%). The top five regions accounted for just over 80% of total Chenin Blanc production. Other regions producing Chenin Blanc include Swan Hill, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Perth Hills.

In terms of bearing area, the Riverland and Swan District are clearly the top two, as each region held a 24% share of total Chenin Blanc-bearing area in 2006. Margaret River (8%), the Riverina (4%) and the Barossa Valley (4%) round out the top five.

Margaret River accounted for the major share of the few hectares planted in 2005. Furthermore, the bearing area and production of Chenin Blanc in Margaret River more than doubled between 2001 and 2006. The bearing area increased from 52ha to 110ha while production jumped from 580t to 1120t.

The volume of Australian Chenin Blanc exported grew from just 109,000L in the year ended July 2000 to 2.4 million litres in the year ended July 2007. Of this, 91% was actually bottled and labelled as Chenin Blanc. This is a relatively high proportion in comparison to other varieties. Of the labeled volume, 43% were straight single varietals and 57% were blends with Chenin Blanc the principal component.

Just over 80% of Australian Chenin Blanc-labelled exports were shipped to the UK in the past 12 months. Ireland (6%) and Canada (6%) were the other key destinations.

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