Wine Companies

Australian Wine Producers – Number of wine producers

The number of wine producers increased by 2% in 2022 with an additional 49 makers across the country, yielding a total of 2,213 producers (Table 11). The additional producers are primarily based in NSW/ACT and SA, with a growth of 6% in both states gaining 23 and 41 new producers respectively (Table 11). All remaining states reported a reduction in producers.

South Australia remained home to the largest concentration of makers with approximately 31% of the nation’s producers contributing just over half of the nation’s crush (Tables 4 & 11). In Victoria, the number of producers went down by 1%, reporting a total of 630 producers for the year (Table 11).

Approximately 38% of producers in the country processed less than 50 tonnes of grapes in 2022 (Table 12). The concentration of smaller producers (less than 50 tonnes a year) is gradually declining, dipping below 40% (Table 12) from approximately 55% since 2009 (data not shown). Medium sized producers (processing between 50 to 499 tonnes) fell by 2% to 452. There were 86 companies processing more than 500 tonnes compared to 89 in 2021 (Table 12).

It is worth noting that for the second consecutive year, the largest increase came from those who did not crush any grapes in 2022. There were 754 producers that did not crush any grapes in the last 12 months, representing approximately 34% of the producers surveyed across the nation (2023 Wine Industry Directory). Trade conditions took a toll on the industry with Wine Australia concluding there was anecdotal evidence indicating that some grapes were not harvested, although the organisation was unable to determine an accurate extent of this heart-breaking decision. Demand for grapes was low following a bumper 2021 vintage, shipping challenges, limited tank capacity with excess stock, tariffs in China and changing consumer behaviour due to the pandemic.

The majority of wine companies also have a cellar door, offering tasting experiences for patrons. Queensland recorded the largest proportion, with 79% of companies having a cellar door attached to their business (Table 13). This higher ratio is not surprising given there are more boutique producers in Queensland. In contrast, only 48% of companies in South Australia had a cellar door. With more than 50% of the nation’s vintage crushed in SA, some wineries transact with wholesale customers only.

Grape varieties

Australian wine producers advised the Directory that they used 158 winegrape varieties to produce straight varietal or blended wines over the course of 2022 (Table 14). Cabernet Sauvignon overtook Shiraz and Chardonnay to be the most common variety being made as a straight varietal wine or blended, with 72% of producers listing it. There were an additional 525 producers fermenting the products for consumers. The popularity of Cabernet Sauvignon has long been established as the world’s most planted winegrape variety.

Shiraz remained popular with 62% of producers crushing the variety. However, with the Chinese market currently at a halt, producers are diversifying to cater for a wider market. Chardonnay was the most popular white with 51% of producers using the grapes. Merlot (40%) and Pinot Noir (33%) rounded out the top five varieties used in 2022 (Table 14).

The attractiveness of red varieties for flavour profiles and higher prices among Australian growers is obvious. However, with an estimated 400 million litres of excess red wines in the Australian market and the prediction of $150 per tonne on average for red winegrapes, particularly for Shiraz and Cabernet, the landscape is expected to be volatile in 2023 (‘Riverland CCW/Accolade V23 Grower Meetings, 7-8 September 2022’ report). High shipping costs brought on by freight pressures eroded the competitive advantage long enjoyed by Australian wine in the bulk wine market. The lower value product is easily substitutable from the international market.

It was only a few years ago that growers started to cultivate red varieties due to the noticeable price difference between the grapes compared with their white counterparts. It appears that the tide is turning with prices for white grapes on the rise. It takes anywhere between two and six years to switch varieties, presenting growers and producers with an impossible conundrum in the current economic environment.

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