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Robust Durif tantalises UK palates

By Peter Bailey Senior Analyst AWBC

Durif was first introduced into Australia in 1908 by François de Castella and planted in Rutherglen, a region where the variety remains synonymous. Durif produces characteristically powerful, tannic and high alcohol table wines and is also used in fortified and sparkling red production. Today, there are more than 70 wineries crushing Durif.

According to the 2007 ABS Vineyard Survey there were 451ha of Durif under vine, accounting for just 0.3% of the national vineyard area in 2007. This was slightly down from the peak of 463ha in 2002. Over half of all Durif vineyard area was situated in the Riverina. Rutherglen had the second largest area of Durif plantings with a further 21% share under vine. The next largest holdings were in Barossa (4%) and Heathcote (3%).

In 2007, the production of Durif reached 4359t. The higher yielding Riverina accounted for 72% of Durif production, while Rutherglen accounted for an 11% share. However, drought conditions saw a fall in the average yield to 9.6t/ha, which was 3.5t/ha lower than the peak recorded in 2005.

The 2007 Australian Regional Winegrape Crush Survey (ARWCS) reported the average purchase price of Durif was $546/t, a 16% increase on the 2006 vintage. The average price of Rutherglen Durif was $932/t while the highest average price was for Heathcote Durif ($1438/t).

In 2007, 1.46ML of Durif was exported to overseas markets by around 20 exporters. Of this volume, 80%, or almost 1ML, was labelled as varietal Durif or had Durif in the blend. All of this wine was shipped exclusively in bottles. Blended Durif (which was predominantly blended with Shiraz) accounted for 54% of the total Durif exports, while varietal Durif accounted for the remaining 46%. The average export price (FOB) for blended Durif was $3.56/L while varietal Durif recorded a higher average price of $5.54/L.

Overwhelmingly, the favourite destination for Durif-labelled wine was the UK, with three-quarters of all Durif exported to this market in 2007. The next favoured destination was Canada with 10% of Durif exports, followed by the US with 7%. Over 80% of Durif exported in 2007 was labelled South East Australia with a further 9% labelled New South Wales. Rutherglen was the leading regional exporter of Durif, despite accounting for just 4% of total Durif exports.

The full Durif Varietal Report can be found in the May/June issue of Australian Viticulture



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