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
|Muscat a Petit Grains||1,581||1,167||-26%|
|Total red grapes||469,643||542,064||772,816||963,301||25%|
|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%|
|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|
|Source: Winemakers’ Federation of Australia|