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1999 Vintage Report

The 1999 vintage proved challenging due to the vagaries of weather but the Australian wine industry weathered the storm with good vineyard management and well-timed harvests and surpassed the one million tonne mark for the first time. The Winemakers' Federation of Australia estimates a total intake for 1999 of 1,177,610 tonnes of grapes. The intake exceeds the 1998 crush of 975,674 tonnes by more than 20% and has more than doubled since 1991.

The record intake resulted from additional production from new vineyard plantings, higher yields in some regions and good management practices. Most regions have reported good to excellent quality although this varies greatly across regions and varieties. Reports indicate that high quality fruit was brought in over most of the season with disease problems affecting minor volumes that were cropped late.

According to Nick Bulleid, who prepared the national vintage report for Southcorp Wines, the early 1998-99 growing season in most regions of Australia was marked by very dry conditions. 'This was in spite of a breakdown in the previous El Niño cycle, which had brought drought the previous year. With the exception of Western Australia and the more northerly parts of New South Wales, winter and spring were drier than normal and many dam water levels remained low,' Mr Bulleid said. 'Occasional frosts brought sporadic damage to some regions and a very widespread frost on 27 October badly affected vineyards through the inland parts of New South Wales, including Cowra, Canberra and Tumbarumba, in Rutherglen, central and southern Victoria and through the Riverland of South Australia to Coonawarra. Large tracts of vineyard were not badly affected, so the impact on the overall Australian crush was not large, but growth on many small vineyards was completely destroyed, particularly in the higher, cooler areas.'

'Hot weather in December and January made big demands on remaining water supplies and caused vine stress in some regions, with loss of quality. From early February, patchy, but often quite heavy, rain began to affect most of south-eastern Australia and heavy rainfall in March caused considerable damage to central South Australia, parts of the Yarra Valley and Tasmania,' Nick Bulleid said.

Yields varied widely across the country. The national average yield of red grapes rose from 10.4 tonnes/hectare in 1998 to 11.9 tonnes/hectare in 1999 based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimate of 39,825 hectares bearing red varieties. The national average yield of white grapes rose from 13.8 tonnes/hectare in 1998 to 15.5 tonnes/hectare in 1999 based on the estimate of 31,965 hectares bearing white varieties (excluding multi-purpose varieties).

Specialist red and white grapes contributed 82% of the vintage, while multi-purpose grapes contributed 17.7% in comparison to 19.6% in 1998 and 29% in 1994.

The total specialist white winegrape intake increased by 21% representing 42% of the total crush. Chardonnay was the most widely harvested winegrape and accounted for 20% of the total harvest and posted an increase of nearly 38% from 1998. Semillon was up by 35.1% to 89,437 tonnes while Sauvignon Blanc achieved 15% growth to 23,327 tonnes. Riesling declined from 35,201 tonnes to 30,875 tonnes largely due to a decrease in area under vine.

New plantings of alternative white varieties are starting to bear with Verdelho up by 90% to 9,361 and Marsanne up by 26.9% to 2,315 tonnes.

The total red winegrape intake increased by 33% and now represents 40% of the total crush. Shiraz exceeded 200,000 tonnes for the first time with an increase of 59,244 tonnes taking it to 207,103 tonnes, 17.6% of the crush, and the Cabernet Sauvignon intake increased by over 35,000 tonnes up to 133,363 tonnes or 11.3% of the total crush. Merlot recorded the highest increase of all major varieties and was up by 127% to 33,344 tonnes. In 1998 Merlot was the 12th largest of the specialist varieties; in 1999, it became the sixth largest. Pinot Noir bucked the trend, recording a decline of 8.7% to 1,725 tonnes resulting from the rain or frosts. Other red varietals to show strong growth include Grenache (+11.4% to 24,676 tonnes) and Mataro (+12% to 9,106 tonnes).

Australian winegrape intake

1997
1998
1999
Change
tonnes
tonnes
tonnes
%
Cabernet Franc
4,000
4,821
4,821
0
Cabernet Sauvignon
67,200
97,939
133,363
36.2
Grenache n/a
22,151
24,676
11.4
Malbec
2,600
3,491
2,502
-28.3
Merlot
8,600
14,717
33,344
126.6
Pinot Noir
14,600
19,936
18,211
-8.7
Ruby Cabernet
12,600
15,282
20,663
35.2
Mataro n/a
8,130
9,106
12.0
Shiraz
100,900
147,859
207,103
40.1
Other red
22,278
20,206
-9.3
Total red grapes
356,604
473,995
32.9
Chardonnay
133,100
171,353
235,945
37.7
Chenin Blanc
14,600
18,046
16,792
-6.9
Colombard
33,000
34,753
40,592
16.8
Crouchen
2,365
1,414
-40.2
Doradillo
10,211
5,075
-50.3
Marsanne
1,824
2.315
26.9
Muscadelle
2,500
2,563
1,923
-25
Muscat Blanc
4,051
3,472
-14.3
Palomino/Pedro Ximines
6,748
4,609
-31.7
Riesling
33,500
35,201
30,875
-12.3
Sauvignon Blanc
13,300
120,317
23,327
14.8
Semillon
51,200
66,223
89,437
35.1
Traminer
5,700
6,542
6,004
-8.2
Trebbiano
12,303
11,282
-8.3
Verdelho
3,000
4,938
9,361
89.6
Other white
10,967
12,239
11.6
Subtotal specialist white
289,900
408,406
494,662
21.1
Sultana
115,300
137,016
138,985
1.4
Muscat Gordo Blanco
79,900
73,646
69,968
-5.0
Subtotal multipurpose
210,664
208,953
-0.8
Total white grapes
619,070
703,615
13.7
Total grapes
798,000
975,674
1,177,610
20.7

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