The Winemakers’ Federation of Australia has released its report on the 2005 vintage. It is the first quantitative measure of the 2005 vintage and its findings are summarised below. To coincide with the report’s release, Australian Viticulture invited the country’s grapegrowing and winemaking organisations to submit a review of the recent vintage in their regions.

A 34 PER CENT SURGE in Australia’s Chardonnay crush contributed to yet another record vintage in 2005, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia’s recently-released report on the harvest has revealed.

Australian wineries crushed an estimated 1.924 million tonnes of grapes this year, a rise of six per cent on the previous record set last year.

Although the red winegrape intake rose by only half a per cent in 2005 from 1.063 million tonnes in 2004 to 1.069 million, the white grape intake increased by 102,000 tonnes to 855,000 tonnes, an increase of 14 per cent compared with the 2004 crush. The increase in Chardonnay was largely responsible for the rise in the white grape crush, which climbed 105,000 tonnes to 416,000 tonnes. This leapfrogged Chardonnay over Cabernet Sauvignon has our second largest grape variety behind Shiraz.

As a result, the share of the total winegrape crush accounted for by Chardonnay jumped from 17 per cent in 2004 to almost 22 per cent in 2005.

The other major white varieties to increase were Riesling (up 16 per cent to 42,000 tonnes) and Colombard (up 28 per cent to 89,000 tonnes). Those to fall were Semillon (down by more than one per cent to 98,000 tonnes) and Sauvignon Blanc (down by one per cent to below 39,500 tonnes). Of the multipurpose varieties, the Muscat Gordo Blanco intake rose by nearly seven per cent to 56,000 tonnes while the Sultana intake slumped by 30 per cent to 40,000 tonnes.

The WFA vintage report noted that the nation’s overall winegrape crush would have been higher had it not been for some fruit being left on vines or harvested onto the ground ‘in response to declining prices and poor returns for some grapegrowers’.

According to the report, Australia’s intake of its largest winegrape variety, Shiraz, rose by four per cent to 454,000 tonnes and accounted for 24 per cent of the total intake. The Merlot intake also jumped, rising 17 per cent to more than 144, 000 tonnes to represent eight per cent of the total crush. Conversely, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Ruby Cabernet intake fell by five per cent, nine per cent and four per cent, respectively.

‘While the record 2005 vintage is expected to place further upward pressure on aggregate stock or inventory levels the relative shift in the grape crush from red varieties to white varieties may actually help to reduce some market imbalances,’ said WFA chief executive Stephen Strachan, noting wineries had reported that the supply of white varieties more closely reflected market demands than the excess supply in some red varieties.

‘These are challenging times for the wine industry, with growth in competition in Australia and from our global competitors, retail consolidation, discounting and the strong dollar restraining growth in winery margins. While we are selling greater volumes of wine, the value of those sales is not increasing as the industry would like it.

‘These pressures, along with the excess supply of some red grape varieties, especially in some cooler climate regions, forced the lower grape prices experienced this year. That this report shows the industry is focussed on going where the markets are is an encouraging sign we can move grape supply towards balance in future years.”

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