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Smaller vintage sees shift back towards white varieties

Market Bulletin | Issue 268
05 Jul 2022
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The 2022 Australian winegrape crush is estimated1 to be 1.73 million tonnes, 2 per cent below the 10-year average and 13.5 per cent below last year’s record crush of 2.01 million tonnes, according to the National Vintage Report 2022 released today by Wine Australia. 

The reduction in crush compared with 2021 is the equivalent of approximately 190 million litres (21 million 9-litre case equivalents) of wine.

The estimated yield was just under 12 tonnes per hectare2, slightly lower than the 10-year average of 12.55 tonnes per hectare (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1        Australian winegrape crush and average yield 2012–2022

The reduction is likely to be the result of a combination of seasonal influences and adjustments made by winemakers to market conditions and capacity limitations. After a record high vintage in 2021, a lower yield in general was expected due to reduced cropping potential. This natural variation was compounded by a number of significant seasonal effects – in particular heavy widespread spring and summer rainfall across much of the eastern half of Australia, and a number of significant hailstorms.

Apart from seasonal effects, the 2021–22 season was challenging as a result of winery tank capacity limitations going into vintage following the record harvest in 2021, as well as reduced exports to mainland China and severe shipping disruptions, delays and escalating costs. 

Restricted winery tank capacity, together with reduced global demand and softening prices for red wines3 may have resulted in wineries and growers reducing their overall production and/or intake of grapes – particularly red varieties. However, it is not possible for the National Vintage Survey to separate normal seasonal fluctuations in yield and weather events from active strategies to reduce intake.

Crush by colour and variety

The crush of red grapes4 in 2022 is estimated to be 959,131 tonnes – a decrease of 191,395 tonnes (17 per cent) compared with 2021, and 3 per cent below the 5-year average. It should be noted, though, that the 2022 crush was still 4 per cent above the 10-year average, as the tonnage of red winegrapes has been on a generally upward trend for the past 10 years (Figure 2). 

The white crush was 775,129 tonnes – a decrease of 79,500 tonnes (9 per cent) compared with 2021 and 5 per cent below the five-year average. The smaller decrease in the white crush compared with red meant that whites increased their share to 45 per cent after falling to 43 per cent in 2021. This was still below the 10-year average white share of 48 per cent, and reflects the continuing trend towards red varieties that has been occurring over that timeframe (Figure 2). It is too early to determine whether the shift towards whites this year is the start of a reversal in this long-term trend.

Figure 2        Winegrape crush by colour 2012–2022

Of the top 10 varieties, the four reds – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir – all declined by 19 per cent, while the six whites generally declined by smaller percentages, with Chardonnay down by 6 per cent, Sauvignon Blanc and Colombard by 10 per cent and Semillon by 12 per cent. The exception was Pinot Gris/Grigio, which decreased by 20 per cent – more than any of the other top 10 varieties (Figure 3).

Figure 3        Top 10 varieties crush and year-on-year change in vintage 2022 

Exports in the 2021 calendar year showed a very similar pattern to the changes in production in 2022, indicating at least some degree of deliberate alignment between demand and intake. The top 10 export varieties align almost exactly with the top 10 by production, and the pattern of change in the 12-month period was very similar, with all varieties (except Semillon) down by between 4 per cent and 25 per cent, and the reds generally down by more than the whites (Figure 4).

Figure 4        Exports of top 10 varieties and year-on-year change in calendar year 2021 

The top 10 red and top 10 white varieties together accounted for 95 per cent of the total crush in 2022 (Figure 5). The remaining 5 per cent (93,831 tonnes) was made up of a further 65 red and 60 white varieties. Among these, varieties showing the strongest growth over the past five years include: Alvarinho, Arneis, Carmenère, Chambourcin, Grüner Veltliner, Isabella and Pinot Blanc. 

Figure 5        Share of crush by colour and top 10 vs minor varieties 2022

Grape purchases and total value

The total estimated value of the 2022 crush at the weighbridge was $1.21 billion, a decrease of $335 million (22 per cent) compared with the record weighbridge value of $1.56 billion in 2021, but $60 million more than in 2020 and $8 million higher than in 2018, when the crush was 2 per cent larger. This reduction in value was a result of the reduced crush, combined with a reduction in the overall average value, which decreased by 10 per cent from $701 per tonne in 2021 to $630 per tonne.

The decrease was made up of a 15 per cent decline in the average value of reds to $707 per tonne, partly offset by a 2 per cent increase in the average value of whites to $548 per tonne. 

The average value for white winegrapes was the highest since 2008, after increasing every year since 2014. The average value for reds has declined for the past two years from a peak of $871 in 2020, but was still higher in 2022 than it was in 2017 and 46 per cent higher than it was in 2011 (Figure 6). 

Figure 6        Average winegrape purchase value 2008-2022 

Breaking down the purchase values further shows that the main driver of the overall price decrease has been red varieties from the warm inland regions, which decreased by 30 per cent in 2022, following a 17 per cent decrease in 2021. In 2022, the average value for whites from the warm inland regions exceeded that of reds (Figure 7) for the first time since 2005.

Figure 7        Average value by colour and region and year-on-year change 2020–2022

The reduction in average value for commercial red winegrapes, combined with escalating input costs including fuel and fertiliser, have made operating conditions very difficult for many grapegrowers. These conditions are not likely to improve significantly in the short-term. Australian red wine is still under price pressure on global markets, shipping delays and increased costs are continuing to affect exports, while inflation, energy costs and interest rates are rising, increasing winemakers’ costs and putting pressure on consumer disposable income.

However, there is still strong demand for Australian wine in export markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom, with growth in premium price segments in line with premiumisation trends. There is also growth in a range of Asian markets, including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan. Growing demand is the key to ensuring sustainable winegrape prices going forward.

The National Vintage Report 2022 can be downloaded here. To explore the data further, all statistics from the vintage survey for the past 8 years can be found on the Wine Australia Vintage Survey dashboard, which can be extensively searched.

1. Based on responses to the National Vintage Survey 2022

2. Assumes a total vineyard area of 146,244 hectares as reported in the National Vineyard Scan (2019)

3. Ciatti Global Market Reports

4. Pinot Noir is counted in the red crush although some of it is used to make white (sparkling) wine.


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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.