Australian Cabernet insights for #CabernetDay

Market Bulletin | Issue 171
29 Aug 2019
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Depending on your time zone, today or tomorrow is International Cabernet Day (#CabernetDay), and Australians have reason to celebrate.

According to Wine-Searcher, Australia produces 7 of the world’s top 10 value Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Based on wines with at least a 90-point rating and dividing the rating by the wine’s price, Cabernet Sauvignon from Australian regions such as Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, Langhorne Creek and Margaret River out-performed wines from key international competitors such as the Napa Valley and Bordeaux.

This comes on top of Australia’s strong performance at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards. Of the 27 gold medals awarded to Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia received the most with seven golds ahead of France and South Africa (each with 4).

Gold medals awarded to Cabernet Sauvignon at the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards

Australia 7
France 4
South Africa 4
Chile 3
China 3
USA 2
Italy 1
Romania 1
Bulgaria 1
Israel 1
Total 27

The world’s most planted winegrape variety

According to IWSR, Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s biggest selling variety with an estimated 163 million cases (9 litre case equivalents) sold across the globe in 2018. Unsurprisingly, it is also the world’s most planted grape variety. Cabernet is Australia’s second most planted red variety behind Shiraz.

In 2019, while the overall Australian winegrape crush declined by 3 per cent, the Cabernet Sauvignon crush increased by 3 per cent to just over 250,000 tonnes and reflecting growing demand, the average purchase price of Cabernet increased by 14 per cent to $846 per tonne. Reflecting the premium nature of Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 per cent of the Cabernet Sauvignon purchased by Australian wineries was at prices above $1500 per tonne (compared to 7 per cent for all winegrapes).

Australian Cabernet shipped to 114 markets around the world

The premium status of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is also evident in the latest export figures. Exports of Australian single variety Cabernet Sauvignon averaged A$6.71 per litre in 2018–19, well-above the total average for all red wines of A$4.54 per litre. Australian Cabernet Sauvignon was destined for 114 markets, with China and the United States of America (USA) the two biggest export destinations with a combined 70 per cent value share.  

The USA is the world’s biggest market for Cabernet Sauvignon and Australia is performing well in the market. According to IRI Worldwide, in 2018–19, sales of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon grew 6 per cent in value in the USA’s off-trade market, double the overall Cabernet market growth rate of 3 per cent. For Australia, the strongest growth is coming at US$8–14.99 per bottle and, albeit off a small base, above US$25 per bottle.

Send in the clones

Wine Australia is also investing in research and development into Cabernet Sauvignon.

For example, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) is currently into the final year of a three-year project, ‘Cabernet Sauvignon trials to evaluate response to climate and management.’ Three field sites of Cabernet Sauvignon plantings will be established in contrasting climates and soils. Each will contain at least 10 Cabernet Sauvignon clones that will be selected in collaboration with the sector and monitored to ensure that vines are well-established.

In the future, clone performance will be evaluated via a range of parameters including vine phenology, vegetative and reproductive growth, water relations and berry traits. The construction of the trial will allow comparison between different clones at the same site and between the performance of each clone in different regions.


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