Australia defies low harvest predictions, but Chardonnay and Shiraz yields fall

Early predictions that the 2019 Australian wine harvest would be 10-20% lower than last year have proved unfounded, despite “significant” losses in Barossa, Adelaide Hills and the Clare Valley, Wine Australia has confirmed – but yields of Chardonnay have fallen to their lowest levels in five years.

The 2019 crush is estimated to be 1.73 million tonnes, according to the National Vintage Report, just 1% lower than the 10-year average, with yields not as low as had been feared.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark described the good-sized crop as welcome news for the sector, which would enable the country supply its export and domestic markets “comfortably”, while the the lower yields were offset by exceptional colour and flavour in the resulting wines.

“It further reinforces Australian winegrowers’ ability to deliver consistent winegrape harvests and mitigate the effects of difficult weather conditions such as those widely reported during the 2019 season,” he said.

However white varieties fell by 8%, and the report showed Chardonnay had fallen by 47,975 tonnes or 12%, to its lowest crush in five years at 356,250 tonnes. This accounts for around 22% of the total harvest.

Red varieties generally fared better, seeing yields up 2% on last year, although Shiraz, which accounts for 29% of Australia’s wine exports, saw yields fall 2% on last year crush to 418,364 tonnes. This year it accounted for 44% of the red crush, and 24% of the total harvest. Meanwhile The Prosecco (sic) crush continued to rise, up 42% to 9,936 tonnes, having seen a 50% year-on-year rise since 2015. It is now Australia’s tenth largest white variety by volume.

Offestting the losses in regions such as the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley, The Limestone Coast regions (Coonawarra, Padthaway and Wrattonbully) saw much larger crops than in 2018 vintage, while the Riverland, Riverina and Murray Darling–Swan Hill had very similar yields, which WIne Australia said demonstrated their ability to manage the canopy and irrigation to offset the effects of heat and dryness. 

Winegrape value grows strongly

The average value of wine grapes also grew on the back of lower yields, rising 9% or $50 per tonne to $664 per tonne, the fifth consecutive year that prices have risen and the higest average price since 2008.  This took the total value of the Australian wine grape market to around  $1.17 billion in 2019, up 6% on last year.  

Clark said the “strong correlation”  between winegrape prices and the average export value which rose 9% in the year to March 2019 to its highest level since 2009.

“Growth in export value underpins the continuing success of the Australian wine sector, with exports accounting for 63 per cent of wine production,” Clark said. ‘It is pleasing to see the value growth in Australian wine in export markets translating to increased premiums paid for Australian winegrapes.’

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