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Photo: Elements Margaret River

Australia’s red blends are made our way

Market Bulletin | Issue 115
Photo: Elements Margaret River
10 Jul 2018
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The red blend in wine is not new and equally it is not unique to any one wine producing nation. However, there is a difference in the way that many regions approach a blended wine.

One internationally well-known blend is Bordeaux. While many know that a (red) Bordeaux is predominantly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it is less well-known that the location of the winery relative to the Gironde estuary (left bank or right bank) determines whether the blend conventionally contains more Cabernet Sauvignon (left bank) or more Merlot (right bank). The only other permitted varieties are Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere.

In Australia, winemakers are not bound by regional rules. There are more 150 winegrape varieties grown in Australia, from Aglianico to Zweigelt, and our winemakers have a long history of taking traditional techniques and applying them in new ways. We play with blends and twist techniques to create wines that are a true expression of place. The recently announced campaign – Australian Wine Made Our Way – celebrates the authenticity of Australian wine, the strong bonds of camaraderie in our community and the excitement of striving for excellence and being innovative.

Shiraz grapes
Photo: Andre Castelluci / Wine Australia

Land of more than 1000 blends

The diversity of Australia’s wine blends is reflected in our export figures. In the past two years, there were more than 1000 different blends exported, including 130 blends that had Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant variety.

The most popular of these by volume were Cabernet/Merlot and Cabernet/Shiraz blends, but there were plenty of others. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot blends grew 10-fold in the 12 months to March 2018 from 4000 to nearly 40,000 9-litre cases. Other less common blends showing strong growth in the same period were: Merlot/Tempranillo (a new entrant in the reporting period at 94,000 9-litre cases), Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot (up nearly 1000 per cent to 45,000 9-litre cases) and Shiraz/Durif (up 9 per cent to 51,000 9-litre cases).

Red wine ferment
Photo: Wine Australia

Blends in market

The popularity of particular blends changes by market. In the United Kingdom, Shiraz/Cabernet was the top Australian blend, with Durif/Shiraz a very close second and Merlot/Tempranillo entered the market at number three.

In the United States of America, the more traditional Shiraz/Cabernet and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends export volumes fell, while there was strong growth in Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot and a few unusual new entrants including the intriguing combination Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Tempranillo/Colombard. These trends are reflected in the off-trade market. In the 12 months to April 2018, Australian red blends excluding Cabernet/Shiraz, Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot/Cabernet and Cabernet/Merlot (classified by IRI as ‘A/O’ red blends) grew by 47 per cent in value, while the market as a whole for this category grew by 4 per cent.

China’s favourite Australian red blend in 12 months to the end of March 2018 was Shiraz/Cabernet, which grew by 85 per cent to 1.5 million cases. Recent research (2017) with Chinese consumers by Wine Intelligence identified two important trends in the Chinese wine market: wine flavour is becoming a key driver of consumer choice (as opposed to brand, price etc), and there is strong growth in consumer interest in fruit-driven, lighter styles of red wine. The flexibility and diversity of Australian red blends provides a very good opportunity for our winemakers to capitalise on these trends.

Pouring red wine
Photo: Wine Australia

From GSM to CSMCFMPV…what can you put on a label?

One of the longest names amongst the exported red blends in the year to March 2018 was Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Malbec/Petit Verdot. While Australia is not constrained in terms of variety combinations, our labelling requirements are strict[1]. For a single variety label the named variety must constitute at least 85 per cent of the wine. Where you wish to label a blend, at least 85 per cent of the composition must be accounted for by the named varieties, and varieties must be presented in descending order by volume. No variety can be left off if it constitutes a higher proportion of the wine than any of the varieties listed. While there is no requirement to include variety names on the labels, this presents an opportunity to provide more information to consumers (maybe WYSIWYG for wine labels – i.e. what you see is what you get), which aligns with global consumer demands for more information about the products they buy, as well as for authenticity and transparency from businesses.

Rules apply domestically and in most export markets, but the rules can vary market-to-market. For more information, see our reference Blending Rules table and the Export Market Guides for the markets that you are exporting to.



[1] Rules apply domestically and in most export markets but can vary – e.g. in the USA

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.