Co-operation best bet as China investigates Australian wine imports

With Australian barley and beef already in the sights of the Chinese government, Beijing is now turning its eyes towards Australian wine as it opens up an investigation into whether or not Australian vintners deliberately dumped cheap wine into the Chinese market.

Tensions are running high between Canberra and Beijing as the Australian government starts flexing its muscle of Chinese incursions into the busy commercial water ways of the South China Sea.

In 2019, the value of wine exports to China were valued at just over $1.2 billion, and with the devastating bush fire season and COVID-19 taking hold, a lot of vineyards will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

In a statement, local vintner association Australian Grape & Wine, has taken a conciliatory approach.

“Australian Grape & Wine is aware of the request by the Chinese industry to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFOCM) to launch an anti-dumping investigation on Australian wine in China,” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine.

“We believe that the Australian grape and wine sector is well placed to respond to this investigation and Australian Grape & Wine and our exporting companies will cooperate fully.

“China is an important market for Australian wine and our wine is in demand from Chinese consumers.

“Australia has a large number of exporters with close cultural ties to China.  The Australian industry welcomes the opportunity to build on these ties and work with the Chinese industry and government to further technical cooperation and develop lasting relationships.”

Speaking to the ABC, Victorian wine expert, James Hall, said, on average, a bottle of Australian wine in China costs three time as much as the locally-produced counterpart, with many in the Australian industry believing this more of a political than trade issue.

Australia’s young guns of wine announced in Adelaide

South Australian winemakers Damon and Jono Koerner from Koerner Wine in the Clare Valley have taken out the 2019 Riedel Young Gun of Wine award.

In its 13th year, the Young Gun of Wine awards aim to celebrate emerging wine producers. This year was the first time the ceremony was held in South Australia.

Koerner were awarded for their 2018 ‘Grace’ Riesling and 2018 ‘La Corse’ red wine.

Damon said the pair was thrilled with their win.

“It’s made even better by the fact that we’re doing it as brothers, we’re doing what we love and we have a great time doing it,” he said.

“And it’s nice to be recognised on a national level for something we’ve put a fair bit of time and effort into.

“We’re lucky that we grew up on a family vineyard that produces amazingly high quality fruit and we’ve just put a lot of effort into making very pure, fresh, pristine wines.”

Koerner was one of three South Australian finalists in the annual competition with winemakers also coming from Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

It was the third year the brothers Koerner were finalists.

“The wines we entered from 2018 were by far the best we’ve ever made, and I think that’s probably why they stood out,” Damon said.

“Because it’s been the effort of mum and dad’s work before us in creating the vineyard and our work in making the wines.”

Damon said they aimed to produce wines that were true to the vineyard and varietals, with textures that didn’t mask other components of the wine.

The competition featured a diverse range of Australian wines including two vermouths by Sacha La Forgia at Adelaide Hills Distillery and a pinot noir by Switch Organic Wine.

Wines were selected by a panel of more than 100 sommeliers, winemakers and trade leaders, and judged by industry professionals.

New technology to track grape development for better harvest

Measuring and tracking the development of grapes in the vineyard is now easier – with a new mobile phone app.

The WineOz Smart Grape Android app was developed by Charles Sturt University (CSU) researchers and is available for growers and vineyard managers to use this coming harvest.

It was created by the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) and funded by Wine Australia.

Lead researcher and NWGIC director, Leigh Schmidtke, said the smartphone app allows growers to quickly measure and then chart the colour and size of the berries.

READ: Wine Australia looks at trends for smaller exporters

“A probe around the size of a single grape is inserted into the cluster to act as a reference point for size in the app.

“You then take a picture of the grape cluster. The algorithms in the computer program calibrate the distance from the camera to the berries. The software will also take the probe measurement in pixels then relate it to the size of the surrounding grapes,” said Schmidtke.

“As grapes mature they change colour, for instance, white varieties go from pea green to yellow gold as they develop. Each particular shade in that colour change relates to changes in the sensory style of wine.

“Being able to measure and chart colour change is very valuable and allows winemakers to predict when they should be harvesting the grapes to end up with the style of wine they want to produce.

“What’s more, the colour and berry size data can be used to monitor negative developments in the crop. For example, if you start to see a reduction in the size of the berries that you wouldn’t expect as they normally mature, you know that they are losing water and can take remedial action,” said Schmidtke.

Wine Australia general manager research, development and extension, Liz Waters, said the app has translated Australian-based research on sequential harvesting into a simple tool that growers can use in the coming vintage.

“The app will make it easier for grapegrowers and winemakers to use objective measures – proven for Australian conditions – to determine the optimum fruit picking ‘window’ to suit desired wine styles by tracking the evolution of fruit colour (white varieties) or volume (for red and white varieties),” said Waters.

“By measuring berry volume, the app will also allow grapegrowers to make improvements to irrigation scheduling to control vine water status, which will assist in avoiding berry water loss and shrivel, enhance fruit quality, and improve bunch consistency.”

The Android app is available through Google Play and is supported by other resources on the NWGIC website.

Australian wine has record breaking presence at expo in China

Australian wine took centre stage in mid-November with a record-breaking presence at ProWine China 2018 – an international trade fair for wine and spirits.

Wine Australia’s largest-ever pavilion showcased Australia’s booming wine sector at the event, based in Shanghai.

A record 47 exhibitors showcased 90 wine brands – compared to 40 brands in 2017 ­– from more than 20 wine regions across Australia, including Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Beechworth, Clare Valley and Yarra Valley.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said China is such a critical market so it was great to see the pavilion jam-packed with Chinese wine trade, hearing the stories of wineries and learning about the diversity of styles available.

READ: Wine Australia looks at trends for smaller exporters

“Thanks to the [Australian government’s] $50m [wine] package, we were able to hit the trade show en masse and give wineries the opportunity to bolster relationships with existing clients or connect with prospective partners face-to-face – be they importers, distributors, wine merchants or food and beverage managers.

“Between the 47 exhibitors, 6 in-pavilion tastings, 2 master classes and a seminar on cutting-edge wine business technology, the “Australian Wine Made Our Way” themed pavilion was bustling with activity,” said Clark.

In-pavilion tasting classes inlcuded:

  • the next wave of Shiraz from Victoria – including Heathcote, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Beechworth, Rutherglen, Grampians and Pyrenees
  • Margaret River’s emergence as a world-class region for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon
  • alternative varieties – exploring the diversity of McLaren Vale wines
  • a tasting journey exploring the Barossa’s diverse palette of varieties, flavours and textures

The public master classes showcased rare and distinguished Barossa varieties, blends, estates, single vineyards and flagship releases; and the history and tradition of premium McLaren Vale Shiraz.

Exhibitor Damian Shaw, managing director of Philip Shaw Wines in Orange, said there is a good strength of Australians representing in this market.

Helen McCarthy, from Mountadam Vineyards in Eden Valley, said relationships are really important, especially in the China market where they’re key to doing business.

“It’s important for us to come and support our importer in building those relationships.

“In some of the tastings I’ve done external to ProWine, it’s been quite a generational change. A lot of younger excited people are learning about wine. It’s just so different to 10 years ago,” said McCarthy.

China has become Australia’s biggest and most valuable wine export market. Exports, including Hong Kong and Macau, soared 55 per cent to more than $800 million in the past 12 months, accounting for 40 per cent of Australia’s total exports, Wine Australia indicates.

Wine Australia looks at trends for smaller exporters

In the year ended September 2018, there were 2401 active Australian wine exporters, Wine Australia explains.

The majority of these – 87 per cent – are companies that export fewer than 10,000 cases per year.

Another 9 per cent export between 10,000 and 50,000 cases per year, and only 4 per cent of exporters ship more than 50,000 cases each year.

The 3 per cent of companies that ship more than 100,000 cases contribute 88 per cent of the volume and 74 per cent of the value of total Australian wine exports.

READ: NSW international wine tourism enriched with $2 million boost

Interestingly, companies that ship fewer than 50,000 cases per year contribute a much higher share to value – 21 per cent – than to volume – 9 per cent, because smaller wine producers sell their wines at higher price points, while many bigger companies ship unpackaged wine at lower average prices, Wine Australia indicates.

For example, shipments that are valued below $2.50 per litre free on board and above $10 per litre have an equal share of total value – about 25 per cent – for companies that ship more than 50,000 cases per year.

In contrast, for companies that ship less than 50,000 cases, 50 per cent by value is shipped at above $10 per litre.

Overall, companies that exported more than 50,000 cases per year contributed $191 million to the increase in value of Australian exports – a growth rate of 10 per cent over the previous year, while companies that exported fewer than 50,000 cases contributed $75 million – a growth rate of 15 per cent.

Growing wine exports is a key focus of the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package.

In October 2018, Wine Australia commenced its Growing Wine Exports program for new and experienced wine exporters looking to grow their exports and give their export strategies a health check.

The program comprises one-day Export Ready Sessions and two-day Export Plan Workshops that are being rolled out nationally throughout 2018–19.


Wine Australia: China is Australia’s most valuable wine export market 

China is Australia’s largest wine export market by value and – along with the USA – it is a key focus of Wine Australia’s dedicated marketing activities.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said it is critically important for Australia to have a strong presence in China.

“China is Australia’s most valuable wine export market and the growth in China is a testament to the wine sector and the great work being done to stimulate more interest and educate Chinese consumers on the quality and diversity of fine Australian wine,” said Clark.

Exports to China, including Hong Kong and Macau, grew 24 per cent to $1.06 billion in the 12 months to end September 2018, Wine Australia indicates.

READ: Australian grapegrowers and consumers becoming more experimental

Wine Australia is gearing-up for two of the wine sector’s major China events for 2018 – the 6th annual Wine Australia China Awards and ProWine China.

The China Awards ceremony and gala dinner will be held on November 12 at the Bvlgari Hotel in Shanghai.

The ceremony will recognise trade, media and educators who are actively adding their mark to the growth, demand and sales of Australian wine in China.

This year’s awards will honour achievements across eight categories, including:

  • Best Australian Wine List (sponsored by KPMG Sydney Royal Wine Show)
  • Best Australian Wine Promotional Campaign – on premise
  • Best Australian Wine Promotional Campaign – online stores
  • Best Australian Wine Educator (sponsored by Barossa Wine School)
  • Best Feature Story on Australian Wine – consumer media
  • Best Feature Story on Australian Wine – trade media
  • Online Wine Communicator of the Year (sponsored by McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association), and
  • Online Food and Wine Communicator of the Year (sponsored by Tourism Australia).

The judging panel for the China Awards includes a Master Sommelier, a Master of Wine, industry leaders, and a line-up of key trade, media and wine education influencers.

Clark said the annual Wine Australia China Awards are a major celebration of the wine sector, offering a fantastic opportunity to celebrate people and businesses and helping to promote premium Australian wine in China.


“Just this week we took part in the first China International Import Expo, which brought together thousands of companies from over 130 countries to connect with domestic and foreign buyers.

“The Chinese Government put a lot of support behind this event,” said Clark.

The events are supported by the Australian government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package.

Next in line is China’s international trade fair for wine and spirits, ProWine China held  November 13-15 at Shanghai New International Expo Centre.

This year, Australia will showcase its largest-ever pavilion with close to 90 brands representing more than 20 wine regions across 5 states.



Australian grapegrowers and consumers becoming more experimental

The Australian grape and wine community is well known for its experimental and innovative attitudes towards growing and producing wine, Wine Australia explains.

The Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show (AAVWS) is one event that both encourages interest in different varieties and showcases new gems.

With the next AAVWS to be held in Mildura from November 7-10, Wine Australia wanted to gauge what’s happening in this sector.

While there’s ample conversation to be had over a glass of vino or two about whether these varieties should be called ‘alternative’ or ‘new-to-Australia’ or even ‘emerging’ it’s clear that there is an enormous amount of interest in trying something different.

READ: Australian wine continues to be the flavour of international markets

While viticulturalists and winemakers are the ones leading the way, consumers are willing to try and enjoy new sensations such as Prosecco.

While the vast majority of the wine produced in Australia still comes from a handful of varieties – two-thirds of the 2018 winegrape crush came from four varieties – there are more than 130 wine grape varieties grown across Australia, with 120 making up just 11 per cent of the crush.

Shiraz grape varieties make up the largest portion at 24 per cent, with chardonnay following close by with 23 per cent.

Pinot Noir, Colombard, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Semillon make up the smallest portion – each holding 3 per cent.

A growing number of Australian vignerons and winemakers are expanding beyond the traditional varieties and including a wide range of alternative varieties in their portfolios.

This includes numerous Italian varieties that are now emerging in Australia, such as Prosecco, Sangiovese, Fiano and Vermentino.

While some emerging varieties are planted to respond to changing consumer preferences, others are experimental to counter some of the predicted future impacts of climate change, and for some winemakers it is an ancestral connection to other winegrowing regions around the world.

Prosecco is the fastest growing of the emerging Italian varieties, with the crush growing from 2500 tonnes in 2015 to more than 7000 tonnes in 2018.

This reflects the growth in popularity of Australian Prosecco among Australian wine drinkers.

According to IRI Worldwide, the value of Australian Prosecco sales in the domestic off-trade market almost trebled over the past three years. In comparison, sales of Australian Sangiovese over the same period increased by 2 per cent per annum.

Emerging varieties are grown across Australia’s wine regions, and researchers and grapegrowers are working together to grow the pool of knowledge about where in the world to look for varieties that might suit the varying regional conditions across the Australian continent from Western Australia’s Margaret River to Queensland’s Granite Belt.

NSW international wine tourism enriched with $2 million boost

The New South Wales wine sector will benefit from a $2 million marketing campaign aimed at boosting international visits to the state’s wine regions.

The NSW Wine Industry Association has secured $1m in funding through the International Wine Tourism State Grants program and $1m in matching state funds through the NSW government to partner with Destination NSW on a targeted international marketing campaign.

The association and the Destination NSW marketing campaign aims to increase international tourists’ overnight stays in NSW wine regions by 12,000 nights in both 2019 and 2020.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said the NSW application was approved by the Australian government following assessment by an independent expert assessment panel.

READ: Wine Australia survey identifies key sales advantages

“The $5m state grants program is designed to enhance wine tourism experiences and drive collaboration between key sector partners.

“Wine is a key driver of international visitors to Australia but there’s a relatively untapped opportunity for the wine sector to focus on wine tourism product development. To grow the visitor economy, we need compelling experiences that go beyond the cellar door,” said Clark.

By partnering with Destination NSW on a targeted marketing campaign, the association can ensure the ongoing resilience and competitiveness of the wine tourism sector, he said.

NSW Wine Industry Association executive officer Angus Barnes said the strategy targets the four largest markets for international visitors to NSW – China at 16 per cent, South Korea at 15 per cent, the United Kingdom at 14 per cent, and USA at 12 per cent.

“It is tailored to individual regional preferences within these markets.

“We’ll be using critical data to understand current drivers and visit trends, so we can reposition NSW wines and regional experiences with a sophisticated and targeted marketing campaign,” said Barnes.

“Our campaign has two primary goals – to attract more international visitors to our wine regions and to grow the visitor economy by driving overnight stays and increased spending,” he said.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said good food and wine is meant to be shared, and that’s exactly what this will do,” said Littleproud.

“New South Wales winemakers are among the world’s best and the world should know about it.

“We’re backing NSW winemakers so they can host more foreign tourists in their top-notch wine regions,” he said.

“NSW wine shouldn’t be kept secret – let’s get the word out and the tourists in,” said Littleproud.

Australian exhibitors showcase wines at festival in Hong Kong

Australia has cemented its position as a highly popular country precinct at the 10th Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival held on October 25-28.

Wine Australia reports the festival is Hong Kong’s largest consumer-facing event that attracts more than 144,000 attendees.

In its third year at the event, the Australian wine sector introduced festival goers to an enhanced program of fun and educational activities to give them a lasting impression of the country’s wine scene, with support from the Australian government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package.

The ‘Australian Wine Made Our Way bar’ featured a diverse line-up of premium wines from 12 regions across Australia –the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Hunter Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Mornington Peninsula, Riverina, Rutherglen and Tumbarumba.

READ: Australian wine continues to be the flavour of international markets

Two themed wine stalls – the ‘refreshing sparkling, white and rosé booth’ and the ‘rich and bold red booth’ – gave patrons a chance to explore a collection of varieties that are on-trend in Australia and are becoming popular in Hong Kong.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said for this year’s event, Wine Australia focused on enhancing its presence to have a greater appeal to consumers.

“When they come to the Australia precinct, we want them to enjoy themselves while learning what our great wines have to offer. It’s about creating a lasting impression of our winemakers, our regions and our diverse and premium wines,” said Clark.

The Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival kicked off a line-up of China-focused activities over the next month, with the China International Import Expo, the Wine Australia China Awards and ProWine China all happening from early-to-mid November.



Wineries can save with Caps Australia compressed air audit

Compressed air is a critical utility to many industries, including the wine industry, performing a range of wine production functions including grape crushing, pressing, cooling, heating, filtering, drying as well as receiving and bottling the end product.

Its versatility and convenience make compressed air essential to a diverse range of applications, with approximately 15 per cent of all industrial electricity consumption in Australia going to generating compressed air.

What many businesses do not realise, however, is just how energy intensive compressed air is, with almost 90 per cent of the electrical input energy being converted to waste heat.

This means only 10 per cent of the remaining energy is compressed air energy.

Additionally, compressed air systems are often poorly set-up, maintained and controlled which creates further inefficiencies, it is not unusual to find a system using only 50 per cent of compressed air productively.

If a system is not running as well as it could, a business could be using more electricity than is required.

Wasting energy is wasting money. Fortunately, a professional audit and assessment of a system can reveal surprising opportunities to reduce energy consumption and overall business cost.

Caps Australia has developed a fully proprietary auditing package, designed to give a full view of a business’s compressed air system.

It is non-invasive, low-cost and simple to undertake yet provides highly valuable insights into the operation and efficiency of a system.

Typically, Caps expect to find savings up to 15 per cent, and it’s not uncommon to find savings beyond 50 per cent in electricity with payback well within two to three years.

Recently Caps were able to generate some excellent outcomes for one of its customers.

The implemented solution included replacement equipment along with a number of improvements to the system, including a 20 per cent reduction in electricity consumption, with a payback on capital investment within two years.

There was also improved air quality and 30 per cent savings in long-term maintenance costs.

More stable pressure to the customers’ demands, meaning greater and more consistent productivity was also a factor.

Having conducted more than 500 compressed air audits across Australia, Caps has uncovered millions of dollars in potential savings for customers.

The company’s team holds a highly respected voice in the compressed air industry due to a professional approach, industry-leading equipment, processes and specially developed air audit software to ensure consistent and accurate results.

Caps is offering wineries an obligation-free air audit with the Caps team performing an efficient health-check of compressed air systems.

Companies will receive a report complete with expert recommendations that are geared to deliver long-term savings and improved efficiency.


Australian orange exports increase but drought still burdens other sectors

Rabobank’s agribusiness October outlook indicates growth in wine and fruit exports, but meat and grains are falling short.

The monthly report shows that fresh orange exports continue to grow in price and volume, as well as wine exports to Canada.

Canada is one of the top wine export destinations for Australia by value.

For July and August 2018, compared to the same period in 2017, Australian exports of all wine to Canada have lifted by about 17 per cent in volume and 7 per cent in value.

READ: Cattle prices trend down as drought conditions increase pressure in market

Fresh orange exports have grown substantially since 2013, with global trade data indicating total Australian fresh orange exports of 197,000 tonnes in 2017.

Global trade data shows that in 2017, key Australian export markets for oranges had increased in value by $107m, which is almost double the 2013 value.

Over the same period, export volumes grew by about 46,000 tonnes, an increase of about 50 per cent on 2013.

Despite growth in some wine and fruit markets, dry weather and frost damaged winter crops in the grains and oilseed sector, with south-west New South Wales missing out on much needed rain over September.

Rabobank reports that parts of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were hit with frosty conditions, which caused significant damage to crops.

The Frost and ongoing dry conditions have reduced 2018/19 new crop prospects on grains and oilseeds.

Wool supply is set to continue to fall in the coming months and a dry outlook gives downside potential for young cattle.

A three-month outlook of the weather is expected to bring little rain to the country.

Despite the dry conditions, cattle prices lifted slightly or stayed steady throughout September and some rainfall through eastern states provided hope and ability to hold cattle rather than sell them, Rabobank reports.

September slaughter numbers (567,400 head) in the eastern states continue to reflect the drought-induced sales, up 15 per cent year-on-year.

Beef exports for September (91,668 tonnes swt) remain high, up 4 per cent year-on-year.

China remains hungry for Australian beef with exports up 55 per cent year-on-year, however they still remain Australia’s fourth-largest export market behind Japan, the US, and South Korea.

Live exports in comparison to 2017 YTD (August) are up 21 per cent, with stronger volumes to Indonesia and Vietnam throughout the year to date up 10 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

In addition, live exports to countries besides Indonesia and Vietnam (such as Malaysia and Middle East) has increased 195 per cent, since 2017 year-to-date.



Australian wine exports to Canada increase in volume and value

In 2017–18, the volume of Australian exports to Canada increased by 11 per cent, to 7.6 million cases, and value increased by 7 per cent to $199 million.

Canada is Australia’s fourth biggest export destination by volume and value.

Exports grew by value to all ten provinces. More than 80 per cent of Australian wine by value is shipped to three provinces – Québec, British Columbia and Ontario.

British Columbia was the stand-out with volume up by 29 per cent and value up by 12 per cent.

READ: Australian wine export grants increase to $1.5 million

Québec, Ontario and British Columbia are also the three largest provincial wine markets in Canada with a combined volume share of 82 per cent.

Québec is the biggest provincial wine market in Canada with total sales of 18.9m cases.

In 2017–18, wine sales grew by 5 per cent, driven predominantly by imported wines from France, Italy, Spain and Australia.

Australia is the fourth ranked wine category behind France, Canada, and Italy.

Australian exports to Québec increased by 2 per cent in volume and 9 per cent in value in 2017–18.

There was growth in both Australian bottled and unpackaged exports, but the growth was significantly stronger in unpackaged exports.

The average value of bottled exports increased marginally to $5.39 per litre, while unpackaged exports increased by 16 per cent to $1.02.

Exports of red and white wines grew, but the growth was much stronger for whites.

Red wine exports increased by 5 per cent to $28m while whites increased by 18 per cent to $15m.

There were 78 Australian companies exporting to Québec during the year – up from 65 the year before.

Ontario is the second biggest provincial wine market in Canada with total sales of 15.8m cases.

In 2017–18, wine sales grew by 2 per cent with wines from Italy, the United States of America and Canada the key growth categories.

Australia is the fourth ranked category behind Canada, Italy and USA.

Australian exports to Ontario increased by 11 per cent in volume and 3 per cent in value in 2017–18.

British Columbia is the third biggest provincial wine market in Canada with total sales of 8.5m cases sold.

In 2017–18, sales were flat in British Columbia with growth in wines from Canada and Italy offsetting declines from most other suppliers such as USA and Argentina.

Australia is the fourth ranked supplier behind Canada, USA and Italy.

Australian exports to British Columbia increased by 29 per cent in volume and 12 per cent in value in 2017–18.


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.

SEW-Eurodrive equipment helps Yalumba Winery save on energy costs

At a time when energy costs continue to spiral upwards, saving energy is not just good for the environment, it is important for the commercial bottom line.

According to Jesse Auricht, engineering manager, Yalumba Winery, decisions taken when planning a bottling upgrade at the plant have turned out well in both regards.

He said the choice of energy-efficient SEW-Eurodrive Movigear mechatronic drive units to keep the conveyor lines and bottles moving, contributed to this positive outcome.

The winery is serious about reducing energy costs and monitors energy consumption continuously. Typically, half the cost of energy is based on network charges, so it is important to avoid any spikes in consumption as the wine bottles are filled, capped, labelled and packed in the bottling plant, said Auricht.

“In the energy market, 50 per cent of your cost can be dictated by a half-hour event,” he said. “If you hit that peak once, depending on the time of day, you’ll see an ongoing energy cost increase.”

John Gattellari, national industry specialist – food & beverage, with SEW-Eurodrive, said the Movigear units are designed to minimise the use of electrical power and help manufacturers make savings. Movigear complies with efficiency class IE4 (super premium efficiency) and reduces energy costs by up to 50 per cent, due to the high efficiency of all its components.

Planning pays off
Once it was clear that the plant needed refurbishing, the owners decided not to rush in. Starting with their own design concepts, they issued a tender for detailed design and implementation of the project, and awarded it to Foodmach, a specialist Australian provider of machinery design, manufacturing and control services.

Working closely with Yalumba, Foodmach designed and installed the new conveyor and line control system. The revamped system consisted of the original bottling line with new controls, conveyor and palletisers, and a second line with a new de-palletiser, filler and packer.

SEW-Eurodrive’s engineering and customer service, together with energy efficient Movidrive mechatronic drive system and high precision servo motors and Movidrive controllers, were fundamental in obtaining the desired result.

In addition to saving costs by reducing energy consumption, the upgrade also led to a safer work environment and a reduction in noise.

Noise amplification and reduction
Another key issue was that of noise, especially given the running speeds of the conveyors. Line 2, which is used for wine only, runs at 12,000 bottles per hour. “You get glass bottles banging into each other at that rate and it’s noisy – and potentially dangerous as well,” said Auricht.

Trevor Burgemeister, process control technician at Yalumba, said that to alleviate the noise and danger of uncontrolled collisions, the system had to be designed to detect when bottles were about to collide. When this happened, it set a maximum collision speed.
Auricht said to achieve this, the drives needed to be accurate, reliable, efficient and controllable. As for the noise component, he said that the Movigear is so quiet it’s negligible in comparison to the rest of the system.

These characteristics, along with past performance and a strong relationship, were major factors in the choice of SEW-Eurodrive.

“They have been a solid partner of ours for a long time. It’s a recognised brand and we’ve had a lot of success,” he said.

No pressure
The key to reducing the noise is creating a pressureless line. In this case, pressure refers to the accumulation of bottles at any point on the conveyor system. It occurs when the conveyor is transporting more bottles than the individual machine process rate. If a processing machine for filling, capping or labelling is operating at a slower speed than bottles are being delivered, the bottles bump into each other, and that familiar sound of glass against glass can be heard. On a grand scale though, it’s not a pleasant clinking sound that you might hear in a restaurant. At a rate of thousands of bottles per hour, it’s more of a cacophony.

Auricht said that if the conveyor keeps running when this happens, the pressure continues to build up. This means energy wastage, inefficiency and noise, along with wear and tear on all the conveyors.

On Line 1, which is used for many different bottle types ranging from sparkling wine with a cork, to table wines with screw tops, the flow is between 5,000 and 9,000 bottles per hour. While the aim is zero pressure on the conveyors, the processing machines require a degree of pressure to function correctly.

To achieve this, the conveyors on this line run at set speeds, while the line’s process machines vary their speed as necessary to maintain head pressure of between five and eight bottles.

In the Foodmach, line control system speeds are controlled by software programmed according to a “recipe” that varies for each production variety.

The recipe specifies which processing machines are required for the product and also their operating parameters. Recipe data – speed, diameter of bottle, gap between bottles and the like – is communicated from the programmable logic controller (PLC) to the SEW-Eurodrive gears and units. These are calibrated so that the speed of the conveyor is set correctly. Burgemeister says that connecting the motion-detecting sensors to the motors and gear units, in order to manage the flow of bottles, was a simple operation. “It was just a matter of plugging the photoelectric in,” he said.

Poetry in motion
Correct flow is set up at the start of the operation on the Foodmach de-palletisers, where thousands of bottles per hour are fed into the two bottling conveyor lines. At this point, several mini conveyor lines, running side by side and at different speeds, cause bunched-up groups of bottles to be fed into a single line. Complex programming, communicated to each Movigear drive in the system, makes the operation look easy. For Auricht, this is what good engineering is all about. He describes the process with a single word – poetry.
“This was probably one of our most successful projects undertaken – both in timeframes and outcomes,” said Auricht. “In the scheme of things, the premium for the high-efficiency, low-energy drives was not that much. Looking back on it now, it absolutely was the right decision.”

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.

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

Australia’s winegrape crush in 2018 was 1.79 million tonnes – just above the long-term average of 1.76 million tonnes.

The average purchase price for winegrapes increased by 8 per cent to $609 per tonne, the highest level since 2008.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark welcomed the increase in the average purchase price.

“The increase in grape prices applied to both red and white grapes, with red grape prices increasing by 11 per cent to $768 a tonne while values for white varieties increased, on average, 5 per cent to $444 a tonne,” Clark said.

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Winemakers’ Federation of Australia chief executive officer Tony Battaglene said another good vintage was welcomed by winemakers and provided the raw materials for the quality wine required to supply our growing export and domestic demand.

Australian Vignerons chief executive officer Anna Hooper welcomed the increase in price per tonne and hopes to see the trend continue in order to ensure the sustainable pricing for winegrapes in the longer term as the recognition of Australia’s wine quality proposition continues to grow.

The divergence between red and white average prices has increased steadily since 2011, driven by strengthening relative demand for red wine.

Despite the higher prices, the total estimated value of the crush decreased by 3 per cent to $1.11 billion, reflecting the 10 per cent reduction in total crop size from the record 2017 vintage of 1.99 million tonnes.

The decline in tonnes compared with last year was greatest in percentage terms in the cool/temperate regions, which were down by 20 per cent overall, while the warm irrigated regions, Riverina, Murray Darling–Swan Hill and Riverland, were less affected by the drier spring and summer, with yields down just 5 per cent.

Clark said that while production of red grape varieties had decreased by 15 per cent on 2017 figures, it had to be remembered that the above average 2017 vintage had seen tonnages increase by 12 per cent, meaning that the 2018 vintage was effectively a return to long-term averages.

The decline in the white variety crush was only 4 per cent compared with 2017, leading to a reduction in the red share from 55 per cent to 52 per cent of the crush, in line with the 3-year average.

Of the major varieties, Shiraz tonnes decreased by 17 per cent, Cabernet Sauvignon by 14 per cent and Merlot by 19 per cent.

Chardonnay was the only major variety to go against the trend, increasing by 9 per cent and restoring its share of the white crush to 47 per cent after falling to 42 per cent last year.

The proportion of winery-grown fruit decreased from 33 per cent of the crush in 2017 to 31 per cent in 2018.

The calculated average purchase price of $609 per tonne, was up by 8 per cent on the price of $565 a tonne calculated in 2017.

This figure is the highest since 2008 and above the average price across the past 10 years of $508 per tonne.

It is the fourth consecutive vintage where the average purchase price for winegrapes has increased.

Since hitting a low in 2011, the overall average grape price has increased by a compound annual rate of 6 per cent over the past 7 years.

However, the average is still roughly two-thirds of its peak in 2001.

The overall average purchase price of red grapes increased by 11 per cent from $692 to $768 per tonne, while the average price of white grapes increased by 5 per cent from $421 to $444 per tonne.

The divergence between red and white average price has increased steadily since 2011, driven by strengthening relative demand for red wine.

Each of the top 10 red varieties showed increases, with Shiraz up by 8 per cent – on top of a 12 per cent increase in 2017, Cabernet Sauvignon up by 14 per cent and Merlot up by 18 per cent.

Among the whites, Chardonnay increased by 5 per cent despite a significant increase in tonnes produced, Sauvignon Blanc increased by 4 per cent and Muscat Gordo Blanco increased by 3 per cent.

The only white variety to decline in overall average price was Pinot Gris/Grigio – down 1 per cent.

The National Vintage report is based on a survey of winemakers conducted in May–June 2018.

Responses were received from more than 400 businesses, including all wineries known to crush more than 10,000 tonnes, and they are estimated to account for 85 per cent of all winegrapes crushed in 2018.

Two new skills development programs help wine tourism and exports sectors

Two new skills development programs packed with practical information and useful tools are being launched to help drive success in wine exporting and wine tourism.

The programs are supported by the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package.

One of the programs, Growing Wine Exports, starts in wine regions from the 2nd of October 2018.

It provides practical, hands-on working sessions and workshops for new and existing wine exporters looking to select, enter and/or build export markets.

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The working sessions are designed to evaluate export prospects and the workshops are focused on building an effective export plan.

The other program, Growing Wine Tourism, starts in late October 2018. It is for people wanting to take a more strategic approach to developing and delivering their wine tourism products and services, including understanding the visitor economy and their international readiness.

The programs will be delivered to wine regions through workshops, webinars and online learning.

Assistant minister for agriculture and water resources senator Anne Ruston said a key factor for growth in the wine sector was capturing opportunities in major export markets, such as the US and China.

“There’s also an opportunity to expand our wine tourism offering and treat wine products as liquid postcards for our regions,” she said.

“These programs will equip businesses with plans, tools and advice to increase their chance of success in global markets,” said Ruston.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said the impact of the program tools and detailed market analysis would be fantastic for the wine sector.

“Whether you’re a new or existing exporter – or a wine business looking to expand your wine tourism offering – developing a strategy that cuts-through can be challenging,” he said.

“Participants will receive advice about reducing the risks associated with exports and wine tourism, and, in turn, will strengthen our global reputation for fine wine and tourism,” said Clark.