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Minor variety still makes an impact

By Peter Bailey Senior Analyst, AWBC

Malbec 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 425ha of Malbec undervine in 2006. This is lower than the recorded peak of 511ha in 2001, but still higher than the area in the 1980s and 1990s (200–300ha).

Reduced vineyard areas of Malbec contributed to tonnages falling by a quarter between 2001 and 2006, from 4288t to 3203t. The 2007 Australian Regional Winegrape Crush Survey (ARWCS) indicates that Malbec was hit hard by drought and frost with the crop down by just over 50%.

According to the ARWCS, Malbec is priced at a premium compared with the average of all red winegrapes. In 2007, the average price received for Malbec was $916/t compared with $713/t for all red winegrapes.

There were over 200 wineries crushing Malbec in 2006. South Australia is the leading State for production, accounting for nearly 80% of Malbec production in 2006. Victoria and Western Australia are next (each with 7%) followed by New South Wales (6%). In terms of bearing area, South Australia is also number one (69%) followed by Western Australia (15%), Victoria (10%) and New South Wales (6%).

Padthaway accounted for a quarter of Australia’s Malbec production in 2006. The Riverland (17%) and Clare Valley (15%) were next, followed by Langhorne Creek (9%), and Cowra (4%). The top five regions accounted for 70% of total Malbec production. Other regions producing the variety include Margaret River, Barossa Valley, Heathcote and Coonawarra.

Western Australia accounted for 90% of the few hectares of Malbec planted in 2006. Great Southern planted the most area in the State followed by Geographe, Margaret River and Swan District.

The volume of Australian Malbec exported grew from just 332,000L in the year ended September 2002 to 972,000L in the year ended September 2007. Reflecting that it is mainly a blending variety in Australia, just 6% was actually bottled and labelled as straight Malbec varietals and 2% was blends where Malbec was the principal component. In contrast, 51% was part of Cabernet Sauvignon blends and 41% as part of Shiraz blends.

Just over 80% of Australian Malbec-labelled exports were shipped to the UK in the past year. New Zealand (4%) and the US (3%) were the other key destinations.

The full Malbec Varietal Report can be found in the Jan/Feb 08 issue of Australian Viticulture.



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