The Australian wine industry achieved a record vintage in 2004, with an estimated crush of 1.86 million tonnes—40% more than the drought affected 2003 vintage and 23% more than the previous record vintage of 1.51 million tonnes in 2002.

Increased crop levels were recorded across almost all varieties, with bearing areas up around 5% on 2003 and above average yields in virtually all parts of Australia.

Red winegrape production increased by 293,000 tonnes to 1.07 million tonnes (surpassing 1 million tonnes for the first time) and accounted for 57% of total production. Specialist white winegrape production (i.e. excluding the multi-purpose varieties of Sultana, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Waltham Cross) increased by 196,000 tonnes to 672,000 tonnes (representing 36% of total production). The substantial increase in red winegrapes will provide both a challenge and opportunity for the industry’s export sales program. The aggravated supply position relates primarily to cool climate production with the intake of warm climate red winegrapes considered to be more balanced with domestic and export demand for branded products at ‘popular premium’ price points. The increased intake of white winegrapes will assist in alleviating the shortage of some premium white varieties, especially Chardonnay, and a more balanced position is expected for most regions.

Good winter rainfalls and favourable weather conditions during spring and summer have delivered a disease free vintage of ‘above average’ to ‘outstanding’ quality across all regions. One of the longest vintages in recent times, the dry, warm and stable conditions boosted red winegrape production in particular. Both warm and cool climate regions exceeded quality and yield expectations in 2004.

Production of the top two specialist red varieties Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon increased by 43% and 41% respectively on the 2003 vintage. Shiraz production increased by 133,000 tonnes to 442,000 tonnes to maintain its dominance as Australia’s largest volume winegrape variety, accounting for 24% of total production. Cabernet Sauvignon production increased by 92,000 tonnes to 317,000 tonnes, accounting for 17% of total production. Merlot production increased by 35% to 125,000 tonnes, representing 7% of the total winegrape crush. Pinot Noir recorded a 52% increase on 2003, with production rising to 42,000 tonnes while Grenache production rose by 31% in 2004 to 26,000 tonnes.

Chardonnay recorded an increase of 95,000 tonnes to 329,000 tonnes compared to 2003, representing 18% of the total winegrape production. Semillon was up by 34% or 26,000 tonnes to 103,000 tonnes compared to 2003. Colombard also contributed to the vintage increase, with production up from 53,000 tonnes in 2003 to 72,000 tonnes in 2004. Riesling intake increased by 26% to 37,000 tonnes, but was overtaken by Sauvignon Blanc production which doubled to 43,000 tonnes.

The production of multipurpose grapes was also favoured by seasonal conditions, with the crush of 122,000 tonnes up by 42,000 tonnes (52%) on 2003. When compared to the overall vintage, multipurpose grapes’ share declined from 30% of total production in 1994 to 7% in 2004.

There have been significant changes in the profile of Australian winegrape production over the past 10 years. Production has increased by 180% since 1994, driven by growth in export volumes of some 350% over the same period.

Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay now account for almost 60% of total production, up from 27% in 1994.

The projected production for 2005 and 2006 is 1.89* million tonnes and 1.95* million tonnes respectively. These projections indicate that, assuming ‘normal’ seasonal conditions, there will be a 2% increase in production in 2005 and a further 3% increase in production in 2006.

(The information for this article was supplied by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.)

*Source: ABARE, Australian Wine Grape Production and Winery Intake (January 2004).

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