Sandy Hathaway, Senior Analyst, Wine Australia, provides an update on the 2023 winegrape vintage.

According to the Wine Australia National Vintage Report 2023, released on 11 July, the 2023 winegrape vintage was the lowest in a generation and 26 per cent below the 10-year average. Most varieties were down by at least 25 per cent, with reds generally experiencing greater declines than whites.

One variety that bucked the trend was Mataro (also known as Mourvèdre or Monastrell), which showed a small decline overall, but increased strongly in the top three regions that produce it in Australia: the Riverland, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.

Mataro is the ninth-largest red variety by crush size in Australia, and one of the oldest, having been brought out to Australia by James Busby in 1832. It is grown across wine regions from Margaret River in Western Australia to the Granite Belt in Queensland, but more than 80 per cent comes from the top three regions.

The Barossa still has some of the original plantings, including some of the oldest Mourvèdre vineyards in the world that were planted in 1853 by Johan Friedrich Koch. Eight rows of this original, pre-phylloxera planting still exist on the Old Garden Vineyard at Rowland Flat.

The variety has reinvented itself a few times. It was popular for making fortified wines up to the 1950s and can be found in some of South Australia’s most famous fortifieds, such as the Seppeltsfield 100-Year-Old Para Tawny. It then began to be used in table wines, mainly as the secondary component of blends, and fell out of favour for a while in the 1980s and 1990s, during the rise of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon (both separately and together). 

Recently, the rise in popularity of GSM blends, which fit contemporary consumer taste preferences, has seen Mataro’s profile rise accordingly – not just in Australia but in export markets. In the year ended March 2023, the export of labelled Grenache blends (primarily GSM) increased by six per cent in value and 11 per cent in volume, while the volume of Mataro specifically increased by 38 per cent, compared with an overall decline across all varieties of one per cent.

Similarly, on the Australian domestic market, the volume of Grenache blends sold in the off-premise increased by 19 per cent in volume and five per cent in value in the year ended 2 April 20231.

According to Max Allen2, Mataro as a single-variety wine is experiencing a ‘revival of fortunes’, as winemakers have realised the potential of the old Mataro vines…to make ‘fabulously wild, characterful, deep and robust red wine’. This is also evident in the domestic sales figures, where Mataro/Mourvèdre wines have increased by 55 per cent in volume and 34 per cent in value in the past 12 months, according to IRI MarketEdge (but from a very low base).

This article was written by Sandy Hathaway, Senior Analyst, Wine Australia, and was originally published in the August issue of National Liquor News.

1IRI MarketEdge April 2023

2Max Allen, An Alternative A-Z 2023

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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