Australia's winemakers harvested 2.03 million tonnes of grapes in 2021, according to the latest estimate by Wine Australia. This means an increase of 31 percent compared to the small amount harvested in the previous year and 16.7 percent more than the 10-year average. At the same time, it is the largest Australian harvest recorded to date. Average yields are just under 14 tonnes/hectare.
Rachel Triggs, General Manager Corporate Affairs and Regulation at Wine Australia describes 2021 as a "unicorn" vintage because it offers the rare combination of exceptional qualities with great quantity. "Good fruit, sufficient water at the right time, no heat waves, low disease pressure and favourable harvest conditions resulted in a high yielding vintage with high quality," Triggs says. Wine Australia sees the large crop as very positive, given that cellar stocks have fallen sharply following two smaller harvests in 2020 and 2019.
Harvest volumes grew particularly strongly in South Australia. With an increase of 44 percent, South Australia accounts for more than half of Australia's production. New South Wales accounts for 29 percent (+17% compared to 2020) of Australia's annual production, Victoria for 17 percent (+25%).
Among the grape varieties, the leading variety Shiraz in particular was able to make gains. The harvest volume rose by 41 percent to 538,000 tonnes, with Shiraz accounting for more than a quarter of Australian production. The second most important variety is Chardonnay with a harvest volume of 385,000 tonnes (+33%). Cabernet Sauvignon follows in third place with 308,000 tonnes (+36%).
Stable grape prices
The development of grape prices is interesting. Chinese tariffs have had little impact so far. Despite this trade hurdle and the large harvest, prices for red wine declined only moderately. For Shiraz, A$878/tonne (approx. €559) were paid in 2021, five percent less than in 2020. Cabernet Sauvignon dropped ten percent to A$787, and Merlot twelve percent to A$591. The prices for white wine increased. Eleven percent more was paid for Chardonnay at A$531, and 14 percent more for Sauvignon Blanc at A$677. The average total price of A$701 was minimally above the previous year (+1%). The value of the harvest is therefore estimated at A$1.56 billion, 36 percent more than in 2020.
In its harvest report, Wine Australia describes the climate conditions as almost perfect. The summer was the coldest of the past ten years. December 2020 was also very rainy, with the third highest rainfall in historical comparison. This makes 2021 the opposite of the hot and dry previous year. Overall, fewer heat waves and rainfall at the right time would have allowed for an optimal ripening phase. cg