By Ian Neubauer
An Australian Bureau of Statistics report on the wine and grape industry shows grape crush production was down 26.5 per cent, or 500,000 tonnes, on the previous year.
The reduction in grape crush was largely attributed to the ongoing drought meteorologists are calling the worst on record. Water shortages have hit particularly hard in the winemaking regions of Victoria where the total area of wines bearing grapes fell by 400 hectares; and South Australia, which accounted for more than 43 per cent of the total area of grapevines irrigated last years.
Winemakers’ inventories fell 15 per cent on the record high of 2,100 million litres last year — the lowest level since 2003. The report also found wine production fell 32 per cent in 2006-07 financial year, while the export market grew 9 per cent in volume and 4.4 per cent in value. However, the average price per litre fell 4 per cent to $3.66, down from $3.82 in the previous year.
The European Union continues to be ranked as the major importer of Australian wine, accounting for 53 per cent of total volume. The US came in second with Canada third. On the domestic front, wine sales grew 4 per cent in volume and 5.5 per cent in value. In volume terms, red wine recorded the largest increase (8.7 million litres), with domestic sales for white wines growing by 6.2 million litres. The sale of fortified wines continued to fall, dropping to 17.4 million litres last year and 8.2 million litres less than 10 years ago.
Australia is the ninth largest producer of grapes in the world. The area of vines planted was the 12th largest in the world, while yield was higher than the world average at 8.5 tonnes per hectare. Australia now ranks as the fourth largest exporter of wine after France, Italy and Spain.