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2006 vintage slightly down but much left behind in the vineyard

Due to a volume of winegrapes being unfortunately left on the vine or harvested to the ground, the 2006 Australian winegrape intake was 4.1% less than the 2005 vintage, says the Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA). This year's annual grape crush came in at 1.846 million tones, dropping 79,000 tonnes on the previous harvest. WFA chief executive, Stephen Strachan says this figure is indicative of the excess supply in the wine sector.

"Although slightly down, this vintage is likely to continue to place pressure on inventory levels and highlights the importance of continued efforts to grow both domestic and export opportunities to address current surpluses," Strachan said.

Data from the WFA Vintage Report show reduction in the grape crush in most red varietals and also in white. Red grape intake decreased 5.6% to 1.005 million litres, and white grape intake decreased only 2.3% to 841,000 tonnes. Only Chardonnay did not experience a reduction in volume.

Key findings of the Report include:

  • Shiraz held its place as Australia's dominant grape variety, with 441,000 tonnes (down 3%) comprising 24% of the total crush;
  • Chardonnay experienced slight growth with 423,000 tonnes crushed (up 1%) comprising 23% of the total crush;
  • Cabernet Sauvignon intake was reduced by 7%, with 278,000 tonnes crushed comprising 15% of the total intake; and
  • Increases were observed in the intake of Sauvignon Blanc grapes (up 8% to 39,000 tonnes) and especially in Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio grapes (up 76% to 9,000 tonnes).

The slowing in the rate of new plantings will ensure a reasonably flat outlook for future production of winegrapes, according to Strachan. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) forecasts show minimal change in production levels between now and 2011.