Zero gain from another year’s pain

Despite disastrous losses due to rain, and outbreaks of mildew and botrytis, the removal of 6000 hectares of vines, and hundreds of growers exiting the industry, Australia’s wine industry made almost no inroads into its massive production glut last year, reports Graeme O’Neill at the Sunraysia Daily.

Embattled Murray Valley growers who have borne the brunt of the fallout from the wine industry’s collapse were dismayed when senior industry figures leaders admitted yesterday that there had been almost zero gain from another year’s pain.

Several industry leaders who spoke at yesterday’s Murray Valley Winegrowers’ Inc “Where to From Here” forum at the Settlers Club expressed astonishment that the harvest could be so high despite the overall reduction in vineyard area, and the worst season for vineyard diseases in decades.

The final total are not yet in, but it appears that the same Big Wet that spawned epidemics of mildew and botrytis in Sunraysia’s vineyards, costing growers millions in production losses and higher costs, actually boosted tonnages per hectare in other growing regions, by increasing bunch and berry sizes.

And in some regions, new plantings also helped negate progress towards a smaller national crush.

Mark Downey, Manager of the Regional Winegrape Crush Survey Project for the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, said the Murray-Darling-Swan Hill region, which produces the second largest wine grape crush of any region in Australia, is likely to produce a final tally of 245,000 tonnes, compared with 260,000 tonnes last year.

MVW Chief Executive Mark McKenzie said the region’s 90 wineries were expecting to process a similar tonnage of grapes to last year. “We actually lost about 90,000 tonnes of fruit, a very significant amount, but it was a much bigger vintage in terms of bunch and berry size, so the overall estimate loss will be 21,000 to 25,000 tonnes.

“We have 450 to 480 growers, and only 18.5 per cent reported no damage – that’s remarkable,” he said.

Mr McKenzie said wineries had also taken in a record tonnage from varietal crops, with no damage.

The complete report can be read in today’s copy of the Sunraysia Daily.

The story will also be covered in the September issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker.

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