Australia is currently the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world, with a total wine export value of around $2.6 billion. Around 811 million liters of wine are exported each year, with red wine capturing the majority share with 493 million liters. And all this is possible, largely in thanks to the climate of the continent that is conducive to growing a large variety of grapes. Wine Grape Production In AustraliaAustralia has more than 135,000 hectares under grape production.
Total wine-grape crush is estimated at 1.98 million tonnes. South Australia alone contributes 51% of wine-grape crush at 984,000 tonnes while Murray Darling-Swan Hill comes second at 410,000 tonnes. New South Wales trails at a close third with an output of 398,000 tonnes. Out of a total wine production of 1.37 billion liters, red wine accounts for 58% while white wine makes up the rest 42%. Australia is the sixth largest wine producer in the world, and wine business contributes almost $40 billion every year to the country’s economy. The huge wine industry also means that the country meets most of its wine consumption from locally produced wines, which comes to 84%. Imported wines only make up 10% of the domestic wine market.
Varieties – Wine Grape TypesWinemakers in Australia use about 130 different varieties of grapes. And among all the wine grape types grown in the country, Shiraz commands the first position, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. According to estimates, close to 40,000 hectares or nearly one-third of all vineyard area in the country grow a single variety of grape – Shiraz. Introduced to Australia in 1832 by a Scottish immigrant by the name of James Busby, Shiraz quickly grew in popularity in the country. Incidentally, he is also considered as the father of the Australian wine industry.
The country is the second largest producer of Shiraz grapes in the world, just behind France. Some of the popular Shiraz wines made in Australia include Penfolds Grange and Henschke. Cabernet Sauvignon is a hugely popular wine grape variety across the world. And it is estimated that about 25,000 hectares of land in Australia are dedicated to growing this grape. It is also blended with Shiraz to create unique wines.
There are big regional differences when it comes to the production of Cabernet Sauvignon in the country. While the grapes from the Yarra Valley are known to produce grapes that maintain a balance between acidity and fruitiness, the Clare Valley region is known to produce grapes that have a heightened fruity flavour. Chardonnay claims the third spot as the third most widely planted wine grape variety with about 21,500 hectares of land growing the grape.
Unlike the dark-skinned Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon which are used to produce red wine, Chardonnay is a grape with green skin and is used in the production of white wine. Other popular varieties of wine grapes grown in the country include Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, both of which accounted for about 11% of the total vineyard area in Australia. Vineyard ManagementIt is estimated that there are around 2468 wineries and 6251 wine grape growers in Australia.
In total, they employ more than 172,000 people. The industry has been seeking to improve its vineyard management practices by adopting latest and most modern techniques of grape production and more efficient use of its resources. One of the biggest focus areas has been on the development of environmentally sustainable production techniques that would cut down labor while maintaining the quality of the grape.
However, the main challenge to developing a uniform best practice’ for grape growing across Australia has been the fact that vineyards are located in different regions with varied climatic conditions. The seasonal changes bring in a big factor of unpredictability as to the quality and yield of the grape. For example, if the temperature at the grape bud initiation is warm, then it would mean a bigger yield the next year. However, if the weather was cold at the time of flowering, then it will lead to a lower yield. As a consequence, the wine industry in Australia is investing heavily in coming up with new methods and techniques that will help it to estimate the yields with greater accuracy while also allowing it to assess the quality of grapes more comprehensively.