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.

Survey seeks to identify best practice in direct-to-consumer wine sales

Wine companies are being encouraged to participate in Wine Australia’s inaugural Cellar door and direct-to-consumer survey to help develop best practice customer engagement.

Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said that, in 2017, the small winemaker production and sales survey found that direct-to-consumer sales channels accounted for 43 per cent of total sales revenue for Australia’s 2000+ small winemakers, with cellar door the strongest growing channel.

“Wine businesses were found to be making significant investments in tourism-related offerings and developing a range of alternatives to traditional cellar door tastings,” said Clark.

However, there was very little in-depth information available on direct-to-consumer total sales, cellar door visits, conversion rates, wine club retention rates and other benchmark statistics that helped wineries develop strategies and assess their performance in these profitable and growing channels, he said.

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“This survey delivers on an initiative of Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (WISA) and will be used to develop a series of key benchmarks and statistics to assist wineries in the development of best practice wine tourism,” he said.

“It’s important for producers to benchmark themselves to improve overall performance, make informed business decisions and manage factors that affect consumers’ demand, loyalty and preference for their wine brand. This survey will provide meaningful and actionable insights for wine producers throughout Australia and will be an essential tool when building long-term sales strategies,” said Clark.

WISA executive officer Matt Moate said the research was imperative to define the capability gaps in Australian direct-to-consumer wine sales.

“The supply sector will be able to utilise this data to deliver opportunities to accelerate producers’ knowledge and skills resulting in a new level of competitiveness in this space,” said Moate.

The survey incorporates and expands on Wine Australia’s annual small winemaker production and sales survey and respected social research company Harrison Research will undertake the inaugural 2018 survey on behalf of Wine Australia.

Wine companies will receive a link to the survey in mid-August.

The survey will be anonymous, with the information presented in a report that will be published using aggregated, de-identified data.

The report will be released at WISA’s inaugural wine industry impact conference in Adelaide on the 18th of October.