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Australian imports up, exports down, winemakers unfazed

Australian wine imports increased significantly while exports fell last year – and there was a marked increase in the value of domestic wine sales.

While the volume of Australian wine sold in the domestic market fell by 1.5%, the value of domestic sales surged by 9.8%, prompting some winemakers to welcome what is certainly an increase in quality of the domestic product.

At the same time, Australia imported more wine than ever: 67m litres worth AU$470.7m, an increase of 4.2% in volume and 2.6% in value compared with the year before.

Exports last year fell: 746.6m litres were exported worth AU$1.9bn, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday show.

Although the official figures for the year have just come out, the situation has been known about for months, and prompted one Wine Australia spokesman to joke that any Australian caught drinking foreign wine ‘should have his strides pulled down’.

But most winemakers seem unfazed by the increase in imports. Speaking to Decanter.com at the Wine Australia tastings in London last month, Accolade CEO Troy Christensen and Corey Ryan of McWilliams both said more imports were good for Australian consumers and therefore good for Australian wine.

The more Rioja an Australian drinks, Ryan said, the more they would get a taste for Tempranillo, which Australia grows extensively.

Margaret River Wine Industry Association president Nigel Gallop told the West Australian newspaper that as a region they were unworried.

‘The Australian industry now tends to focus more on quality and perhaps people are looking offshore for the cheaper stuff. My suspicion is that cheap wine is being imported for the cask market.’

The current strength of the Australian dollar has made the country an attractive prospect for imports, and a correspondingly difficult sell for those trying to export Australian wine.

There is also some optimism that the grape glut is easing: inventories of wine fell 3.5% to 1.66bn litres.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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