Recording breaking year for table grape exports

The  Australian table grape industry achieved its highest ever export volume and value in FY20 with 152,200 tonnes valued at $623 million.

Hort Innovation head of international trade Dr Penny Measham said, “When looking at table grape export figures over the past three years, volume increased by 47 per cent, while value increased by 67 per cent.”

China continues to drive export growth, taking up 42 per cent of total exports by volume, increasing by 12 per cent in volume and 25 per cent in value in FY20. However, South Korea has had a record year with 152 per cent year-on-year growth in volume, and 951 per cent growth over the last 2 years. The Philippines has also increased its share of exports with value increasing 29 per cent year-on-year.

Hort Innovation’s Taste Australia retail program builds a sustainable position for Australian horticulture in key export markets in Asia through a range of marketing programs and activities.

“The Taste Australia campaign launched at the peak of the COVID-19 global outbreak, with all markets impacted in some way,” Measham said. “As markets went into lockdown the retail landscape changed dramatically, shoppers were limited in stores and footfall dropped, with many consumers turning online for grocery shopping. Foundation activities such as in-store retail sampling and media launches were either impossible or reduced. The program pivoted to become more digitally focused, with an upweighting to social media, e-commerce, use of influencers and digital advertising to reach consumers in their homes.”

“The table grape success was underpinned by the production of high-quality fruit, being able to export some product prior to significant global disruption and the ability to sea freight product. Many horticulture products are now facing into a peak period of export with reduced airfreight capacity due to COVID,” Hort innovation general manager marketing and trade Justine Coates said.

Grape harvest increases as company secures long-term water lease

The fresh table grape harvest has been completed with significantly improved yields totaling 1,021 tonnes, 25 per cent higher than last year, primarily due to the new farm leadership team, improved nutrition, irrigation, and overall operational management. MRG’s primary market in China has experienced lower pricing, as significantly higher volumes were routed to China given COVID-19 related closures in other table grape markets such as Indonesia, Philippines, and South East Asia.

MRG’s wine grape harvest at its Nangiloc property successfully achieved a 40% increase in yield when compared to last year, with a total harvest 1,223 tonnes. Market pricing was strong with the average price per tonne being approximately 25% higher than last season.

MRG’s dried vine harvest has been completed yielding 651 tonnes, down on last season by 557 tonnes (excluding Colignan, following MRG’s exit from the lease of that property, and entry into an offtake agreement, in late 2019 as previously announced). The yield decrease was mainly due to the severe heat conditions that damaged berries earlier in the growing season in December and January. The difficult cool drying season and the rain events during March and April have impacted the availability of light coloured fruit with most fruit graded as ‘brown’ across the dried vine industry in Sunraysia. MRG has commissioned additional dehydrating units at its Mourquong facility to enable acceptable moisture levels for this year’s rain-affected crop. The total volume will also reduce once the crop is dehydrated to acceptable levels for processing. MRG’s new agronomy and irrigation program implemented this season is expected to result in significantly improved yield performance for dried vine fruit next season, assuming normal weather conditions, evidenced by increased cane growth.

Total dried vine fruit from third-party growers is estimated to be 1,553 tonnes, 474 tonnes higher than last season, however lower than expected due to the challenging growing conditions across the Sunraysia region. This increase to last year’s intake from third party growers is due to an increase in the number of growers supplying to MRO.

The Australian Dried Vine industry estimates that this year’s total crop will be down by approximately 30% on last season due to challenging growing conditions, high water prices and low water allocations, and dried vine growers exiting the industry.

Hemp harvest at the Nangiloc farm was successful with approximately 20 tonnes of high-quality seeds harvested. The organic hemp crop residue was further utilised by bailing the remaining hemp stalks, which were sold to a local Australian company that will utilise them as innovative building materials.

The citrus harvest at Nangiloc and Gol Gol are both approximately 35 per cent complete, with citrus harvest at the Gol Gol farm re-commencing mid-July for late season varieties. Pricing and yield for citrus has remained strong across all varieties and for the patches harvested as at 30 June 2020.

The Company has also recently secured a five-year water lease which will meet approximately 95 per cent of current water requirements, at a contracted price of $360 per ML. The new water lease will reduce MRG’s risk of exposure to high water prices, with spot water at times having traded at over $900 per ML last year.

Discovery shows wine grapes gasping for breath

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered how grapes “breathe”, and that shortage of oxygen leads to cell death in the grape.

The discovery raises many questions about the potentially significant impacts on grape and wine quality and flavour and vine management, and may lead to new ways of selecting varieties for warming climates.

“In 2008 we discovered the phenomenon of cell death in grapes, which can be implicated where there are problems with ripening. We’ve since been trying to establish what causes cell death,” says Professor Steve Tyerman, Chair of Viticulture at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

“Although there were hints that oxygen was involved, until now we’ve not known of the role of oxygen and how it enters the berry.”

Professor Tyerman and PhD student Zeyu Xiao from the University’s Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production have identified that during ripening, grapes suffer internal oxygen shortage. The research was in collaboration with Dr Victor Sadras, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), and Dr Suzy Rogiers, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga.

Published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the researchers describe how grape berries suffer internal oxygen shortage during ripening.  With the use of a miniature oxygen measuring probe – the first time this has been done in grapes – they compared oxygen profiles across the flesh inside grapes of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Ruby Seedless table grape.

They found that the level of oxygen shortage closely correlated with cell death within the grapes. Respiration measurements indicated that this would be made worse by high temperatures during ripening – expected to happen more frequently with global warming.

“By manipulating oxygen supply we discovered that small pores on the surface of the berry stem were vital for oxygen supply, and if they were blocked this caused increased cell death within the berry of Chardonnay, essentially suffocating the berry. We also used micro X-ray computed tomography (CT) to show that air canals connect the inside of the berry with the small pores on the berry stem,” said Xiao.

“Shiraz has a much smaller area of these oxygen pores on the berry stem which probably accounts for its greater sensitivity to temperature and higher degree of cell death within the berry.”

Professor Vladimir Jiranek, Director of the University of Adelaide’s ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, said: “This breakthrough on how grapes breathe will provide the basis for further research into berry quality and cultivar selection for adapting viticulture to a warming climate.”

The study was supported by the Australian Government’s Industrial Transformation Research Program with support from Wine Australia and industry partners.

Australian wine exports increase by 14 per cent to $AUD2.1 billion

The Wine Australia Export Report for December 2015 shows that the value of Australian wine exports jumped 14 per cent to $AUD2.1 billion in 2015, reaching its highest value since October 2007.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said “Pleasingly, our latest Export Report shows that the value of Australian wine exports grew in each of the top 15 export markets in the year ended 31 December 2015.”

“This export growth should be warmly welcomed by the Australian grape growing and winemaking community as it is largely a result of their hard work.”

This is the first time that there has been growth in each of the top 15 markets in a calendar year, with the strongest growth being in China, which grew 66 per cent to $AUD370 million.

The value of exports increased at each price point and the largest increase was in wines with a free on board (FOB) value over $10 per litre. Sales of these wines grew by 35 per cent to a record $AUD480 million. They now make up 23 per cent of the value of Australia’s wine exports.

Bottled wine has been the key driver of the export success. Bottled exports increased by 17 per cent to $AUD1.6 billion and the average value increased by 7 per cent to $5.20 per litre. This is the highest value since 2003 on a calendar year basis.

There were 1,517 active exporters in 2015 (up from 1,395 in 2014) and Australian wine was exported to 122 destinations. 

The top five markets by value are:

1. USA, which increased by 4 per cent to $443 million
2.   UK (Australia’s number one market by volume), which increased 0.2 per cent to $376 million
3.   China, which increased 66 per cent to $370 million
4.   Canada, which increased 7 per cent to $193 million, and
5.   Hong Kong, which increased 22 per cent to $132 million.

Fruity, with a hint of gobbledygook: it’s time to give up on wine wankery

Barnyardy. Herbacious. Unctuous. Chewy. Hedonistic. Ponderous. Shallow. Backward. The wine industry has been using evocative descriptors to characterise the taste and aroma of its products for generations. But how does the industry justify such precise language to describe such a subjective experience?

Especially given empirical research, which has demonstrated that the average consumer struggles to recognise descriptions of the wine that experts identify on the label, it is likely the wine industry alienates consumers more than it attracts them.

Furthermore, although wine experts use a larger vocabulary to describe wine, and discriminate between two wines more effectively than novices, a body of evidence suggests that wine expertise is a questionable label with respect to the degree of rating variability in wine judging.

This plight of wine label irrelevance afflicting wine consumers is typically met with the response of a need for wine education, according to the wine sector. Is it that such consumers are simply out of touch with the wine industry, or is it that the wine industry is out of touch with itself?

We believe the evidence clearly points towards the latter. Welcome to the concept of Wine Wankery.

Previous studies (such as these, by Spawton, Hall & Winchester, and Geraghty & Torres) have suggested there are three to four types of wine consumer:

  1. Connoisseurs or enthusiasts – those who know a lot about wine
  2. Enjoyment-based or casual wine consumers – those who enjoy quaffing their wine and are not too fussed on impressing anyone with it
  3. Risk averse or value seeking wine consumers – those who do not know a lot about wine and look for special offers
  4. Image conscious or aspirational wine consumers – those who are not experts in wine and are insecure about their lack of knowledge.

While there is limited evidence on the proportions of the population that make up each of the above groups, the limited evidence available suggests that fewer than one in five wine drinkers are connoisseurs. It is clear that most wine drinkers are not particularly sophisticated, suggesting that overly complex wine labels are irrelevant to most of the market.

The reality of the market is that most wine consumers are likely to seek a more simple explanation of what they drink. Most people are interested in wine being cheap, and tasting reasonably good. The UK’s biggest selling wines are big brands, and these are mainly sold through the major supermarkets.

Brands such as Yellowtail, Jacob’s Creek and Hardy’s show that the majority of consumers are not into expensive wines nor are they enthusiastic oenologists. Moreover, consumer purchase patterns that hold true in FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) markets also hold true in those where consumers purchase wine. It may be a surprise to many that bulk wine brands are likely to get more consumer loyalty than boutique, expensive brands.

Given that wine operates in a market just like any other consumer product, why does this industry put so much effort into Wine Wankery?

 

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When you read wine magazines or a wine industry journal, ironically much more page space is dedicated to the premium and boutique end of the market. This segment actually represents a disproportionately smaller portion of the wine market in sales volume.

The proportions vary by sales format, but somewhere between 1% and 20% of sales volume is attributed to the premium end of the market. On the other hand, the high volume brands get almost no coverage in wine magazines and journals, yet these brands are responsible for most of the sales. Most people appear happy to describe wine in one or two words. But those who write about wine need to fill space in a wine magazine, so two words isn’t nearly enough detail.

Perhaps wine that’s made to a formula is just not as sexy … Or is it simply that at the high volume end of the market, the consumer isn’t interested in wine descriptions? The appeal of wine is in its diversity and nuance, which attracts people to the category.

 

Ula Peiciute

 

Even across social media, the wine industry works toward the few customers who are enthusiasts or connoisseurs. This year, successful wine apps Vivino, and Delectable, which have millions of subscribers, began releasing data on users’ behaviours. Both of these apps use label recognition from the user’s phone to reveal information on the wine being photographed, as well as reviews from other users. These are game changer apps because the user doesn’t need to put the data in manually, unlike previous wine apps.

These millions of consumers may sound like a lot of users on which claims on wine market trends can be made. The problem with these app owners releasing data on their users’ behaviours is that their users aren’t “typical” wine consumers. A recent example from digital trends, on the Delectable app illustrates the situation.

If the industry was to use customer profiles and data on usage from these apps, it would be easy to believe that Growers Champagne and Loire Valley reds are the big trends in the wine market. Given that most subscribers on delectable reside in the US, you’d be forgiven for thinking that small producers of lesser-known wines were storming into households all over the country.

But, the latest Impact data on the US market shows that sweet red wines are still a fast-growing category, also that New Zealand Sauvignon blanc has grown almost 20% over the past year, and Prosecco sales being the big increase in the segment of foreign sparkling wine category.

What these results show is that these app users are more likely to resemble the small proportion of connoisseurs, and that any analysis from these apps will encourage the industry to be more out of touch with their assertions with respect to real wine drinkers.

Most consumers have probably had enough of wine wankery, and it’s probably time the wine industry got to terms with the fact it’s just another consumer product like any other.

The Conversation

Maxwell Winchester, Discipline Leader, Marketing , Victoria University and Damien Wilson, Programme Director, MSc in Wine Business, Burgundy School of Business

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Taylors sweeps the awards at Great Australian Shiraz Challenge

Family-owned, Clare Valley winery Taylors Wines has stolen the show with its 2014 Taylors Estate Shiraz, taking top prize for Best Australian Shiraz as well as Best Australian Shiraz under $25 at the nation’s premier shiraz competition, The 2015 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge.

Receiving a score of 19.5 from the esteemed judging panel, the trophy-winning Estate Shiraz is one of The Challenge’s highest scoring wines in the competition’s history.

This is the second time in The Challenge’s history that a single wine has received both trophies on offer at the competition.

Third generation Managing Director Mitchell Taylor is proud to be receiving such a prestigious accolade.

“We are thrilled with the result. These award wins are a credit to the hard work and dedication of our vineyard and winemaking teams who craft top quality wines across our entire portfolio,” Mitchell said.

Now in its 21st year, The Great Australian Shiraz Challenge has become Australia’s pre-eminent and valuable single class wine competition. 

The Challenge was established by the winemakers of the Nagambie Lakes region who laid down a challenge to determine Australia’s best shiraz producers. Wines entered are classed and tasted based on climate and regional points of difference, ensuring all entries are judged fairly and objectively.

The Challenge has proven to be a very successful show for Taylors Wines. It first received the People’s Choice Award in 2000 for the 1997 St Andrews Shiraz, taking the top trophy for Best Australian Shiraz the following year with the 1998 St Andrews Shiraz. Taylors also received the trophy for Best Australian Shiraz under $25 in 2011 for the 2010 Promised Land Shiraz.

 

Babich wines celebrate 100 years of winemaking

This month, Babich Wines, one of the pioneers of New Zealand winemaking, will be dusting off the archives and sharing its family stories to celebrate the company’s centenary in 2016.

Babich will be posting 100 stories on babichwines.co.nz, meaning anyone with an internet connection will be able to learn about the family’s trials and tribulations. They will also be sharing rare images, including shots of the original vineyards and the tools they used.

“We wanted to throw the doors open and share the most intimate and interesting parts of our history,” explains Joe Babich, Managing Director and second-generation winemaker. 

“Our family’s story is one of passion, grit and hard work; caring for the earth and the vines; and at the end of the day, creating wines that represent excellence through experience. We’re excited to celebrate that and to share our success with wine lovers both here in New Zealand and around the world.”

New stories will be added to the website each month, kicking off with 26 in September. They touch on a range of emotions. Some reflect the struggles endured by the founder, Josip Babich, in the 1900s, while others show how pure hard work and innovation has ensured its century long success. Scattered among the stories are tales that will have readers laughing out loud.

Founder, Josip Babich, produced and bottled his first wine in 1916 at just 20 years old. According to Joe, he was an honest businessman, whose approach to winemaking was built on integrity, hard work and delivering quality and value to the customer.

“Can you imagine today, what it would mean for a 14-year-old boy to leave his parents and join his brothers to earn a living on the other side of the world? This journey was the humble beginnings for Josip, whose honest hard work and determination set the way for generations to come,” says Joe. 

“His traditional values still guide the business today, nearly 100 years on – and of that, we are immensely proud.”

McGuigan scoops 2015 Riverina wine show

The 41st annual Riverina Wine Show results have been announced and as in previous years the entries and winning wines have celebrated the depth of quality and diversity in the Australian wine industry.
 
The big winner of the night was the 2007 McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon (Hunter Valley), which was awarded the ‘Ian Bicego Best Still Wine of Show’ Trophy. 

Chair of Judges Sophie Otton said, “The McGuigan Bin 9000 showed the variety’s slow, controlled development; the kind that tantalises the senses with its lemony fragrance and glimpses of melted butter and toast complexity. This year’s winner absolutely embodied the exhilarating effortlessness and featherweight grace that is Semillon at its best.”
 
As well as strong entry numbers and some great results in the more traditional classes of Semillon, Shiraz and Cabernet, the judges were also “delighted” to see such diversity amongst the ‘Other Red Varieties’ Class, describing it as “a strong class which proved an exciting category, with expressive and skilfully made examples of Durif, Montepulciano, and Petit Verdot all made locally.” 

Commenting on other wine styles to look out for, Otton said, “The ‘2014 Pinot’ Class was an unexpected surprise. On the table, the wines awarded silvers and golds demonstrated a superb graduation, from fruit driven freshness and balance, building to increasing dimensions and layers of flavour, with the top gold showing superb multifaceted complexity.