2009 National winegrape crush declines but still too much

Australia’s winemakers crushed 1.71MT of winegrapes in 2009, 7% less than in the previous year, the recently released annual vintage report by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) has revealed. Following its survey of wineries in April to which more than 340 wineries responded, representing an estimated 89% of the industry’s winegrape intake, WFA reported the nation’s 2009 crush was below the five-year average of 1.79MT, but was still higher than estimated and greater than required to meet current demand.

Red winegrapes recorded a slightly larger decline than white, but still accounted for 52% of the total intake. The red intake fell 8% to 888,300t while white fell 5% to 817,700t.

Shiraz regained its position as Australia’s most popular variety for the first time since 2006, accounting for 23.6% of the total crush, compared with 23.4% for Chardonnay. This was despite the Shiraz intake declining 8% to 403,100t. Interestingly, the intake of Pinot Noir fell 35% to 28,000t, reflecting the challenging heat conditions in some premier Pinot Noir regions.

The intake of Chardonnay, Australia’s predominant white variety, declined 11% to 398,600t. Of greater note, however, was the growth of Sauvignon Blanc, which increased 3% to 63,300t (representing 4% of the total crush), and the even stronger showing by Pinot Gris and Grigio (up 38% to 40,500t), which moved ahead of Riesling (down 2% to 36,900t). Viognier also showed growth, rising 13% to 13,300t. The intake of Semillon dropped 20% to 76,900t but remains Australia’s second most-popular white variety.

Meanwhile, there have been reports of many thousands of tonnes of winegrapes being picked to the ground or left to rot on the vine, including in the Murray Valley, where a survey of the region’s growers suggested that more than 30,000t of fruit remained unsold and either dumped or left to rot (see story page 5).

With the release of WFA’s report of the 2009 crush, Australian Viticulture invited the nation’s regional grape and wine associations to describe the evolution and outcome of the 2008-09 season and vintage in their respective areas.

Source: Australian Viticulture July/August 2009

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