Tassie set to defy wine glut

grapes vineyard vine purple grapes

THE outlook for Tasmanian winegrape growers this harvest is much brighter than for some interstate wine regions.

This season’s Tasmanian fruit quality is looking very good to exceptional.

inegrape growers in Tasmania continue to attract solid demand for their fruit, which contrasts with some interstate wine regions where they are facing the prospect of leaving fruit to rot rather than chasing their losses as farmgate prices slump by 40 per cent.

Wine Tasmania chief executive officer Sheralee Davies said there is plenty of interest from people looking to purchase Tasmanian wine grapes again in 2022.

“There is more demand than we are likely to be able to supply this year,” Ms Davies said.
“We think the first few grapes for sparkling wine may be harvested as soon as this week, but most vineyards seem to be roughly two weeks behind ‘normal’ timing.
“We expect to continue harvesting through March, April and into May this year, subject to the weather.
“Reports so far are generally positive, with quite a mix in terms of potential yields.
“Quality is very good to exceptional, as is usual, but it looks like yields might be a little down in some vineyards, due to cooler spring weather at flowering. “Following lighter vintages in 2021 and 2020, we’re hoping to see a return to more solid yields across wine growing areas this year, fingers and toes crossed.”

From a value comparison, the 2021 Tasmanian vintage report is a good reference, showing the record value of $3146 per tonne for Tasmanian wine grapes, compared with the national average of $701 per tonne.

However, for some interstate wine regions it is a different story.

In northeast Victoria, Robinvale grower Phillip Englefield said red winegrape varieties for which growers got $550 a tonne last season were now down to between $300/t and $330/t.

“The real crunch is we’ll have significant quantities of fruit that won’t sell,” Mr Englefield said.

Last year’s record 2.1 million tonne grape harvest is still sitting in wineries tanks as growers try to find a home for another 1.7m tonnes this season.

Bulk wine specialist Jim Moularadellis said the triple whammy of losing the Chinese market, a doubling of shipping costs and Covid restrictions had led to the slump.

“Barring a climatic disaster, significant volumes of red grapes are likely to be left unpicked this vintage. This is the first-time grapes will not be harvested for several years,” Mr Moularadellis said.
“Buyers are shedding uncontracted supply of red grapes. This includes buyers that had little direct exposure to China since the loss of this market has impacted all wineries.
“White prices are OK, but under the same pressure.”

Murray Valley Winegrowers chairman Chris Dent said: “With prices for contracted reds deteriorating (almost half of what they were two years ago), and in some instances uncontracted fruit being hard to sell, our growers in the Murray Valley are facing another difficult year.”