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Latest crush rivals 2010 in the face of a difficult season

Australia's 2011 winegrape crush was 1% higher than last year despite early indications of a small harvest due to the variable and at times difficult conditions, estimates by the Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) have revealed.
The WFA tally is the first quantitative measure of the nation's latest crush and draws on the responses to an email survey issued to wineries across the country in which they were asked to provide details of their intakes for both 2010 and 2011 for processing into wine, brandy, spirit or juice. Responses were received from more than 370 wineries, covering an estimated 87% of the industry's winegrape intake.
The survey responses suggest the industry crushed 1.62 million tonnes in 2011, with white grapes overtaking red for the first time since 2007, accounting for 52% of the crush. The estimated white crush increased 13% to 839,000t while the red dropped 9% to 779,000t.

The top five red varieties in 2011 were the same as the previous vintage and accounted for 92% of the red crush: Shiraz 323,000t (-21%), Cabernet Sauvignon 232,000t (+2%), Merlot 113,000t (+1%), Pinot Noir 36,000t (-8%) and Petit Verdot 17,000t (-12%). Pinot Noir's decrease followed a significant increase in 2010 while Petit Verdot held on to fifth spot despite its fall and a 53% increase in Grenache (from 10,000t to 16,000t). However, the Grenache crush was still well below its high point of 25,000t in the large vintage of 2005.
Tempranillo grew 26% (to 3000t) following a 39% rise in 2010, while Mataro (+19%), Sangiovese (+18%), Tarrango (+18%) and Muscat a Petit Grains Rouge (+15%) also rose.
Conversely, significant decreases were recorded for Barbera (-59%) – albeit from a small base – Durif (-24%) and Cabernet Franc (-11%).

Chardonnay on the move

The four main white varieties all increased, with Chardonnay leading the way with an increase of 23% to 405,000t. As the nation's leading grape variety, followed by Shiraz, Chardonnay accounted for 48% of the total white crush for 2011, up 4%.
Sauvignon Blanc increased by 9% (to 86,000t), making it our second largest white cropping variety ahead of Semillon, which was up by 4% (to 82,000t). Fourth placed Colombard grew 12% to 59,000t.
The biggest percentage growth was for Muscat a Petit Grains Blanc (up 91%to 14,000t), with the WFA suggesting this may be due to the increasing popularity of Moscato. Viognier fell 14% to 11,000t.
WFA chief executive Stephen Strachan described the vintage as "too big".
"It may seem harsh, given the year many people have had, to focus on the longer term rather than the demands of the present, but a harvest in excess of 1.6 million tonnes (despite the rejections) is out of step with the realities of sustainable production and the market opportunity for premium Australian wine.
"Most in the industry now accept that decisive steps must be taken to align supply with market potential. The process has begun but this year's vintage suggests we have a fair way to go," Strachan said.
"Market forces are driving the changes but it is a slow process, in part because some in the industry are not making hard decisions in the unrealistic hope that things will get back to the way they were."

Strachan said there was evidence to suggest this may be changing, however, with wine industry broker Gaetjens Langley reporting that it is seeing an increasing number of vineyards for sale as owners accept the reality of lower prices. Gaetjens Langley also notes that the biggest drop in vineyard values has been in the cool climate regions, "but the pain has been reasonably universal", Strachan said.

"That's tough on individuals but a necessity for an industry that needs to keep its focus firmly on quality rather than quantity. We cannot base success on how many grapes we grow and crush, but on whether that number is in line with the quality, character, market destination and potential earnings factors that drive industry viability," Strachan said.
For the first time, WFA's vintage report also included commentary on the quality of the harvest, which concluded that some great wines at all price points would be produced this year, despite the tough season, following reports from a number of regions of high quality across a range of varieties.

"While a lot of damaged fruit has had to be rejected, much of what was accepted was very good," Strachan said. "Rain caused problems everywhere except in the west, but the impact varied greatly between regions and even within regions. Some really suffered – we've heard of losses as high as 70-80%, with individuals wiped out – but others reported little disruption."
The final intake figures for the 2011 vintage will released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in October.

Australian winegrape intake, 2011

Variety

2010

2011

2011
% share

2010-11
% change

Red Grapes

Barbera

482

199

<1

-59

Cabernet Franc

1,594

1,424

<1

-11

Cabernet Sauvignon

227,197

231,869

14

2

Durif

4,781

3,650

<1

-24

Grenache

10,497

16,069

1

53

Malbec

2,012

1,894

<1

-6

Mataro

4,437

5,296

<1

19

Merlot

111,684

113,190

7

1

Muscat a Petit Grains Rouge

1,480

1,700

<1

15

Petit Verdot

19,789

17,359

1

-12

Pinot Noir

38,830

35,790

2

-8

Ruby Cabernet

11,802

12,310

<1

4

Sangiovese

3,526

4,150

<1

18

Shiraz

406,775

322,676

20

-21

Tarrango

606

717

<1

18

Tempranillo

2,422

3,045

<1

26

Other Red

10,197

7,945

<1

-22

Total Red Grapes

858,111

779,283

48

-9

White Grapes

Chardonnay

329,341

404,610

25

23

Chenin Blanc

6,857

6,770

<1

-1

Colombard

52,262

58,694

4

12

Doradillo

700

529

<1

-24

Marsanne

1,567

1,399

<1

-11

Muscadelle

396

379

<1

-4

Muscat a Petit Grains Blanc

7,309

13,952

<1

91

Muscat Gordo Blanco

58,037

54,459

3

-6

Palomino & Pedro Ximenes

490

197

<1

-60

Pinot Gris & Pinot Grigio

44,778

43,217

3

-3

Riesling

32,188

32,720

2

2

Sauvignon Blanc

79,053

86,043

5

9

Semillon

78,960

82,243

5

4

Sultana

2,575

1,713

<1

-33

Traminer

10,413

12,116

<1

16

Trebbiano

891

476

<1

-47

Verdelho

13,588

14,323

<1

5

Viognier

12,464

10,729

<1

-14

Other White

13,031

14,884

<1

14

Total White Grapes

744,901

839,453

52

13

Total Grapes

1,603,012

1,618,736

100

1

Source: ABS (2009), WFA (2010)

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