The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation has estimated the 2004 crush at a record 1.76m tonnes, up from the drought-reduced 1.39m tonnes in 2003 and above 1.6m tonnes in 2002.
BRL Hardy and Southcorp reported increases of 28% and 23% respectively in their harvest this year.
Oversupply of some varietals – notably Cabernet – is still a problem, and analysts said the bumper crop would allow those companies with good distribution to benefit from increased price flexibility and higher volumes.
Australian Wine Export Council executive director Jonathan Scott said companies would fight shy of aggressive discounting, despite lower grape prices meaning greater price flexibility.
‘I think Australian companies are well aware of how too much price discounting can affect the bottom line,’ he said.
Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show white wine sales down 3.3% and red sales down 6.1%.
The fall in exports – which have grown every year for the past decade – is due to a 50% drop in the total quantity of wine shipped overseas. The average value of exported wine was down almost 17%.
The Bureau also reports that the US has overtaken Britain as Australia’s biggest export market.
Australian Wine Bureau UK director Paul Henry said the figures should be treated with caution.
‘I would encourage anyone to see those figures within the context of the Moving Annual Total (MAT) which continues to be positive for the US and the UK in particular.’
Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies