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2002 Vintage Report

Information from the 2002 Winemakers Federation of Australia Vintage Report

Australian winemakers crushed a record 1.65 million tonnes of grapes for the 2002 vintage, an increase of 19% on last year. The $2 billion major vineyard planting program of the late 1990s was now delivering results at the weighbridge.

Red grape intake increased by 25% and now represents 58% of total grape intake. Shiraz intake led the increase (up 43% to 445,000 tonnes) followed by Merlot (up 31% to 105,000 tonnes).

White grapes were up by 11%, to 686,000 tonnes. Chardonnay production was up only marginally, by 3% to 252,000 tonnes. This reflects low plantings in the late 1990s to Chardonnay.

The big news from 2002 was the quality of the fruit. A cool spring and summer and mild autumn, with almost no rain, has contributed to above average fruit quality, with some regions reporting the best conditions in memory.

Despite the record national intake, yields were down significantly in all cooler climates.

A significant increase in premium varieties, led by Shiraz and Merlot, witnessed an overall estimated increase of 19% (258,000 tonnes) of winegrapes when compared to the 2001 vintage.

Red winegrape intake increased by 190,000 tonnes (25%) to 963,000 tonnes, representing 58% of the total intake. This is a remarkable turnaround from only four years ago when red intake represented only 38% of total intake.

Specialist white wine grapes (i.e. excluding the multipurpose varieties of Sultana, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Waltham Cross) increased by 63,000 tonnes to 558,000 tonnes (or 34% of the total production).

Multipurpose grapes marginally increased, by 4,000 tonnes (+3%) on the 2001 vintage. Multipurpose grapes have declined from a 24% share in 1992 to 8% in 2002.

Shiraz increased by 43% to 445,000 tonnes-equivalent to about 10 million additional cases of finished product. More than a quarter of total Australian grape production is now Shiraz, reflective of the dramatic shift to Shiraz plantings in 1997, 1998 and 1999 (12,000 ha). Cabernet Sauvignon increased by a modest 4% to 259,000 tonnes. The less dramatic increase reflects its higher prevalence in cooler climates, where yields were poor, and a proportion of fruit in warmer climates that was not processed. Merlot intake increased dramatically, up by 31% to 105,000 tonnes, representing 6% of the winegrape intake. Pinot Noir declined by 32% to 20,000 tonnes. Given that this variety is almost exclusively grown in cool climates, and the poor yields in these regions, this result is not surprising. Sangiovese and Petit Verdot also increased substantially, reflecting the relatively high rate of plantings to these varieties in recent years.

Chardonnay increased by only 3% (7,000 tonnes) to 252,000 tonnes. In 1999 Chardonnay was the largest varietal in the Australian mix. In the three vintages since then, Chardonnay has only increased by 41,000 tonnes, compared with Shiraz, which increased by 253,000 tonnes over the same period. The relative scarcity of Chardonnay has prompted several companies to write new Chardonnay contracts to provide greater supply surety in the medium term. Semillon was up by 19% or 17,000 tonnes to 105,000 tonnes, and Sauvignon Blanc recorded a 15% increase. Riesling also increased, from 27,000 to 29,000 tonnes. Modest plantings over several years indicates that the variety will continue to grow slowly. Colombard also contributed to the vintage increase, nearly doubling its intake from 39,000 tonnes in 2001 to 68,000 tonnes in 2002.

Yields across regions varied dramatically in 2002. In general, yields increased in the warmer climates and declined in the cooler climates - significantly in some regions. The low incidence of rain combined with a cool spring/summer and mild autumn delivered a grape harvest of outstanding quality across all regions where fruit has ripened. In some of the very cool climates, ripening fruit was a significant challenge. The majority of wineries, however, have reported exceptional quality.

Australian winegrape intake

1999 2000 2001 2002 % change
Variety tonnes tonnes tonnes tonnes 01-02
Barbera 808 1184 47%
Cabernet Franc 4,413 3,577 6,168 5,492 -11%
Cabernet Sauvignon 137,800 169,669 249,288 258,836 4%
Currant 1,619 150 -91%
Grenache 22,998 22,563 28,658 27%
Malbec 2,275 2,567 4,288 3,280 -24%
Mataro 8,413 8,484 11,624 11,582 0%
Merlot 32,957 54,617 80,142 104,917 31%
Muscat a Petit Grains 1,581 1,167 -26%
Petit Verdot 6,140 14,354 134%
Pinot Noir 17,643 16,152 29,514 20,094 -32%
Ruby Cabernet 21,175 28,390 31,128 49,119 58%
Sangiovese 3,295 4,597 40%
Shiraz 205,315 220,907 311,045 445,372 43%
Tarrango 2,666 2,268 -15%
Other red 16,654 17,309 10,947 12,231 12%
Total red grapes 469,643 542,064 772,816 963,301 25%
 
Chardonnay 242,424 224,546 245,199 252,166 3%
Chenin Blanc 20,732 17,368 13,842 13,757 -1%
Colombard 35,206 40,449 39,112 67,629 73%
Crouchen 2,276 2,441 1,648 2,405 46%
Doradillo 6,030 5,655 4,903 5,147 5%
Marsanne 1,666 2,023 2,276 2,197 -3%
Muscadelle 2,832 1,646 1,620 1,151 -29%
Muscat a Petit Grains Blanc 1,580 1,033 2,463 1,290 -48%
Muscat Gordo Blanco 59,580 61,452 48,970 54,243 11%
Palomino and Pedro Ximines 3,707 2,843 2,555 3,127 -94%
Riesling 30,635 23,789 26,980 28,756 7%
Sauvignon Blanc 21,950 19,559 25,326 29,085 15%
Semillon 78,589 72,108 88,427 105,397 19%
Sultana 118,927 97,656 73,812 73,481 0%
Traminer 4,409 2,945 533 473 -11%
Taminga 4,345 5,705 31%
Trebbiano 7,910 7,613 7,356 8,319 13%
Verdelho 8,161 8,985 13,090 14,963 14%
Viognier 683 1,302 91%
Waltham Cross 1,497 595 1,109 433 -61%
Other white 8,087 12,248 14,017 15,247 9%
Sub total white 476,194 445,251 618,266 686,273 11%
 
Sub total multipurpose 180,003 159,703  
Total white grapes 656,197 604,954  
 
Total grapes 1,125,840 1,147,018 1,391,082 1,649,574 19%
Source: Winemakers' Federation of Australia  

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