By Ian Neubauer
An oversupply of Chardonnay grapes is driving prices for the varietal to record lows, decimating grower’s profit margins and throwing doubt on the crop’s economic sustainability.
Adding fuel to the fire is the soaring Australian dollar and its impact on exports; spiralling irrigation, fertilizer and energy costs; managed investment schemes that are allegedly overheating the Chardonnay market with new wine grape plantings to capitalise on lucrative tax benefits; and consumer disquiet that coined the phrase ABC — Anything But Chardonnay.
Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation information and analysis manager, Lawrie Stanford, acknowledged the oversupply but played down its long-term implications.
“I am hesitant to talk about an oversupply of Chardonnay because we’ve gone through three cycles of oversupply in the last 10 years,” he said. “Chardonnay accounts for about a quarter of grape wine production in Australia and typically drives the industry.”
“So I would say the implications for Chardonnay is that it will remain prominent even though it is in oversupply at the moment. But that’s because it’s the dominant varietal and a high yielding varietal,” Stanford said, adding that ABC never came into fruition.
“Australia’s romance with aromatic whites — your Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Gris — is lasting,” he said. “But Chardonnay is still the market leader, by a long shot.”
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