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Wine News

Riverina beats drought to produce bumper crop

Riverina, the largest wine-producing region in New South Wales, has harvested a record-breaking crop of grapes in spite of Australia’s drought conditions and low water availability.

Around 301,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested for the 2008 vintage, up 10,000 tonnes on the region’s previous record year of 2006.

Brian Simpson, chief executive officer of the Riverina Wine Grapes Marketing Board, told ThirtyFifty that, ‘Despite growers on average producing lower-than-average yields in their vineyards, the region has seen a resurgence in terms of production. Riverina is an area that is still planting wine grapes, principally to service export markets.’

He also said that Riverina, which is centred on the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, enjoyed a higher allocation of available water than other regions in Australia because it is closer to source – so the water is of better quality – and the region works on a different allocation system – here preference for water entitlements are given to producers of crops such as grapes over growers of annual irrigated crops, such as rice.

Brian added that, ‘Riverina also had timely rain that increased our tonnage to greater than expected levels,’ and, ‘The season was also very good for producing excellent quality grapes. Although some disease was prevalent in vineyards, overall the wine quality should be exceptional as the vines were well-nurtured and maintained, ie no major stress incidences.’

However, a bigger crop of quality grapes doesn’t mean lots of cheaper fab wine for the consumer. As Brian explained, fertiliser, water, fuel and labour costs have all risen over the past few years, so eventually the price of wine will need to rise to take this into account. He told ThirtyFifty, ‘Consumers are already getting a good deal at prices that are making Australian producers look to exit the industry, leaving the way open for lower-cost producers in other New World countries to possibly look to take market share from Australia.’

That said, Brian added, ‘We are very positive about the future in Riverina as we have more available land and better quality water than other regions. I hope that one day consumers will look for Riverina on the label as a region that can and does produce consistent quality wines on an annual basis.’