Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Grape yields decline

Growers doing it tough, as this year's crop shows lower yields after frost and extreme summer heat.

ROBERT HENSON April 11, 2014 8:00am
This year’s vintage in the Goulburn Valley is down on yield and quality, after frosts and stifling summer heat.
It comes at a tough time for many in the industry, especially smaller growers and wineries, who are looking forward to better economic times.
Goulburn Valley Wines Association secretary Neil Larson said most wineries were finishing up picking, with cabernet and merlot the last off the vine.
‘‘Most people  in the region were unfortunate to be hit by the frost of October 18, but it depends on the geographic situation of the vineyard.
‘‘The damage ranged from 10 to 20 per cent loss of production, to 80 to 90 per cent loss of production.
‘‘It depends if you’re on the frost prone flats, or protected by trees, close to a river or lakes, it was a mixed season for us all.’’
Mr Larson said a lot of growers felt one bad year indicated a better year the next.
‘‘So there’s a bit of optimism there, we get through one season, there’s a bit of a break, and you keep looking forward,’’ he said.
Mr Larson said major supermarkets had driven down prices and all other sectors of the industry were hoping for a return to better margins seen in previous decades.
‘‘The major liquor chains are owned by the supermarkets and  are driving down prices, whether its canned foods or whatever,’’ Mr Larson said.
‘‘Many wineries are looking elsewhere other than large retailers, with the local wine association attempting to get a foothold in the tourism market, being 90 minutes from Melbourne.
‘‘The GV wine region, not as well-known as the Yarra or Barossa valleys, but we know places like Cobram have got a lot to offer.’’
Monichino Wines’s Terry Monichino said he lost about 60 per cent of his crop to frost and poor fruit set.
‘‘We had really small berry size, so whether that’s got to do with the heat in summer, or climate through the year’’
The Katunga winemaker said the rule of thumb was usually one bumper crop in every five, but they had probably only had one excellent vintage in the past 15 years.
‘‘Last year’s was a good vintage, the year before that was too much rain, then drought,’’ he said.
The winery produces about 200 tonnes in a good year of a huge range of varieties, on vines covering 26thha near Katunga.
Mr Monichino said prices were ‘‘not good’’.
‘‘Price wise, around this area, you’re probably looking around $600/tonne for shiraz, but finding someone to buy it is another thing.
‘‘(Against cost of production) you might make $100 per tonne. Depending on how big your vineyard is, how good your crops are.
‘‘In the last few years, varieties like sauvignon blanc we won’t pick all of that, even varieties like chardonnay have been left behind in the past.
‘‘Mind you, 15 years ago, we’d pick anything that was white and anything that was red, you didn’t have enough grapes.’’
Mr Monichino said on average, in the last 10 years, more than 70 new wineries opened up every year in Australia, with about 2500 across the country currently.
‘‘That’s up from 1700 (10 years ago)  so there’s more competition,’’ he said.
‘‘And the high Australian dollar has really put exports on the back foot.
‘‘Through the 90s, in the UK and America especially, Australia was the new winery — it was clean and green.
‘‘From what I’m hearing now, the overseas market is over it and they want something else.
‘‘China’s a big market but they don’t really drink a lot.’’
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