Australian wine continues to be the flavour of international markets

Australian wine exports continue to experience strong growth, with an increase of 11 per cent in value to $2.71 billion for the year ended 30 September 2018.

Wine Australia reports that Australian wine also rose in volume to 5 per cent to 842 million litres, for the year ended 30 September 2018.

Shipments of bottled wine increased by 8 per cent in value to $2.16b and 2 per cent in volume to 366m litres.

Shipments of unpackaged wine also grew strongly, with a 23 per cent increase in value to $525m and a 9 per cent increase in volume to 468m litres.

READ: Australian wine exports to Canada increase in volume and value

There were also increases in the average value of wine exported, with a 7 per cent increase for bottled wine to $5.90 per litre, a 13 per cent increase of unpackaged wine to $1.12 per litre and a 5 per cent increase of all wine exported to $3.21 per litre.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said today’s export figures show that there has been strong and sustainable growth over the past 12 months, delivering the third year of double-digit growth on a year ended September basis.

“These figures are the result of a lot of hard work by Australia’s 2401 wine exporters, the people who spend time in market to build their brands, distribution networks and awareness of all that Australian wine has to offer consumers.

“Australia exports more than 60 per cent of the wine we produce, so it’s important that we continue to build our export markets,” he said.

“In the 12 months to 30 September, there was healthy growth across the price spectrum. Exports above $10 per litre increased by 20 per cent to $804m, with the $20 to $29.99 segment in particular, showing considerable growth. Below $10 per litre, the $5 to $7.49 segment was the star, growing by $50m,” said Clark.

Exports grew to all but one of the major destination regions.

The standout growth of 24 per cent was experienced in Northeast Asia, where exports grew to $1.14b in value, while in North America, a $16m increase in exports to Canada only partially offset a $38m decline in exports to the United States of America.

Regions in growth:

  • Northeast Asia, by 24 per cent to $1.14b
  • Europe, by 5 per cent to $604m
  • Southeast Asia, by 5 per cent to $170m
  • Oceania, by 21 per cent to $105m
  • Middle East, by 41 per cent to $30m

“Growing the China and the USA markets is the key focus of the Australian government’s export and regional wine support package. We are seeing strong growth in China and we have redoubled our efforts in the USA to capture more of the premium end of the market as American consumers trade up to higher priced wines,” said Clark.

“There is positive sentiment about Australian wine in the USA among key influencers and consumers. While consolidation at the distribution level of the three-tier system is proving to be a difficult barrier to overcome, the hard work of Australian exporters willing to get in to market is starting to pay off,” he said.

Research aims to help grapegrowers deal with climate change challenges

A research team from the University of Tasmania (UTAS) is using climate science to provide the Australian grape and wine community with information on dealing with climate change.

The team has provided tools and practical management options to help the industry face the challenges of short-term climate cycles and long-term climate change.

Led by Dr Rebecca Harris, the project employs a multi-disciplinary approach to integrate climate science, species distribution modelling and viticultural expertise.

Dr Tom Remenyi, a member of the UTAS project, said inter-annual climate variability has always posed a challenge to the wine sector. 

READ: Australia’s winegrape crush in 2018 just above long term average 

“Spring frost, heatwaves at flowering or just prior to harvest and bushfires can inflict large financial losses,” he said.

The incidence of such events was projected to increase with ongoing climate change, said Remenyi.

Discussions with grapegrowers and winemakers had highlighted the need for fine-scale regional projections across Australia and forecasts of inter-annual and decadal climate variability driven by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

The team hopes to identify how the weather risks for all wine regions may change into the future across a range of time-scales.

The sector is already highly adaptive and innovative, driven largely by an existing climate that is highly variable, said Remenyi.

These tools aim to help grapegrowers and winemakers choose adaptive strategies with the best long-term returns, he said. 

The UTAS project aims to provide both short-term predictions and long-term projections of climate across Australia, with a focus on regional climate indices tailored for the grape and wine community. 

The goal includes identifying weather risks, particularly important to grapegrowing within different wine regions.

The project also aims to develop region-specific indices of ‘heatwave’ and variety-specific indices of heat accumulation.

The team has also produced a tool that allows the rapid comparison of any region now, with any other region globally into the future. 

This allows users to identify what the vineyard conditions are going to be similar to into the future.

Remenyi said improved knowledge of conditions expected over the next decades could help growers and winemakers position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities and markets.

Artificial Intelligence helps accurately map Australia’s 65 wine regions

The vineyards in Australia’s 65 wine regions will soon be accurately mapped using high-resolution satellite images and advanced machine learning in a national census of Australia’s winegrape area.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said the national scan is an exciting opportunity as it will allow Australia for the first time to have a scalable and repeatable method to measure vineyard area.

“Through the investment, the maps will also be delivered in an online interface that will be able to be accessed by Australia’s grape-growers,” he said.

By mid-2019, Consilium Technology’s world leading agricultural artificial intelligence software Geospatial Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture (GAIA) will deliver a row-by-row census of all of Australia’s vineyards using high-resolution satellite images and advanced machine learning.

READ: Australia’s winegrape crush in 2018 just above long-term average

The scan will be repeated for two years, producing maps for three consecutive vintages.

Wine Australia’s agreement with Consilium Technology follows a successful pilot undertaken earlier in 2018, which returned an outstanding accuracy of more than 90 per cent for scans of the two trial regions Margaret River and Tasmania.

“GAIA’s pilot of Margaret River and Tasmania demonstrated the technology can deliver accurate, timely and cost-effective information about Australia’s vineyards and it is exciting that its capabilities will continue to grow as it learns from the information it receives. We are extremely pleased with the results,” said Clark.

GAIA’s first test was conducted in Margaret River where vineyard locations were already known, and a quantitative analysis of accuracy performed on the results.

A second demonstration was then run using the trained algorithm from the previous analysis to demonstrate its learning capability, which showed a 5 per cent improvement on the previous scan.

Tasmania provided GAIA with an unknown space to work with and the added complication for the software of other crops that have a very similar appearance to vineyards.

“GAIA stood up to the challenge and we’re excited to see how it performs against similar obstacles in other wine regions,” said Clark.

The first national scan will be delivered in mid-2019 and will include the geolocation of every vineyard block in Australia, the area of vineyards for each geographical indication and the length of the vineyard rows in each region.

It is anticipated that the information from the scan will also be beneficial to Australia’s biosecurity activities and wine label integrity.

To improve the quality of the reporting, grape-growers will be asked to identify the varieties of the vineyard plots from the scan.

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