Monday, August 30, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
• Farm-gate value of grapes fell by $35 million to $80 million, a 31% fall in revenue from 2009
• Production fell by 13%, down to 328,000 tonnes (2009 375,000 tonnes)
• The average price per tonne fell 24% for red grapes to $311 and 28% down for white grapes to $283
• These prices are well below the average vineyard cost of $376 per tonne
• Since 2005 grower revenues have fallen from close to $200 million down to $80 million.
But that is only part of the story. Win, lose or draw, the water that makes grape growing possible in the Murray Valley is going to become more expensive. The water outlook for growers in the Riverina is better in the short term, but in the long run there may be little difference between the regions. So the cost of production will increase.
Continuing the bad news, the quality and price advantages that Australia once held over its New World and Old World competitors alike has all but disappeared. It matters not that Australia pointed the way for its competitors via its Flying Winemakers, by publishing its Vision 2025, and by achieving its 2025 goals in seven, not 30 years.
Yet there is hope that Australia may once again prove itself to be the 'Lucky Country'. Its extraordinary economic performance in the face of the GFC is but part of the broader trade ties it has with China, Japan and India (and with the smaller Asian economies). Wine is a global commodity these days, and will become more so in the years ahead, and Australia is not the major wine player in Asia: France occupies that role.
But China is already our fourth-largest export market, and — viewed from the Chinese side — has an imported wine share of 20%, second only to France with 40$, and a long way in front of Chile, California and South Africa with 7% each. At the present time, reports suggest up to 90% of all wine sold in China is domestically produced, but most agree a large proportion of this wine is made by blending a small percentage of (true) Chinese wine with imported bulk wine.
This in turn reflects the generally unsophisticated Chinese market, and is no surprise. Indeed, it is a positive, because the consumers of this wine are overwhelmingly Chinese, rather than expats or tourists. The rate of lifestyle change in China is phenomenal: for example, when I started Coldstream Hills in 1985, there was only one privately owned car in Beijing (all others were state owned).
As the number of Chinese with serious amounts of disposable income continues to soar, it is inevitable that sales of imported wine with a tangible pedigree will follow suit. Other positives are the suitability of the various Chinese cuisines to wine; the absence of religious barriers; the long history of alcohol consumption; and the physical proximity of China (compared to Europe or North America).
If Australia is to maintain its share of a rapidly growing wine market, it will need to provide wine across the full spectrum of price, from beverage (technically premium) wine at an equivalent of less than $AUD10, super-premium ($10-$15), ultra-premium ($15-$50) and icon (over $50).
Premium volume is greater than all other categories combined, and provides the essential entry point product. It is here that the Murray Valley and Riverina come into their own. Lest it be though this is inconsistent with my gloomy introduction, the contempt born of familiarity that pervades the UK market, less so but still a factor in the US, need not be an issue in China.
If the opening of Wine Australia offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong achieves the anticipated success, the present surplus may turn to a shortage in a very short time, and a shortage at a critical time in the development of the Chinese market will have serious long-term consequences.
James Halliday at 9:17 AM
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The award of the title of Young Gun Australian Winemaker of the Year to Rollo Crittenden is well merited, although the gun has had plenty of use to date. His experience began at Dromana Estate, established by his father Garry; Rollo continued as chief winemaker after Garry sold his shareholding, but eventually he moved on making wine in California, Oregon, Italy and the Hunter Valley before coming back home to rejoin his father at Crittenden Estate, which had been established in 2003. Garry was one of the early movers in the development of alternative varietals (Italian) with the ‘i’ range. This interest is now reflected in the Los Hermanos range developed by Rollo and sister Zoe; Los Hermanos apparently translates as ‘the siblings’.
James Halliday at 2:56 PM
please, excuse my English.’
James Halliday at 2:55 PM
James Halliday at 2:53 PM
Monday, August 23, 2010
One grape block producer sold nine varieties: Port, Virginia Dare, Muscatel, Angelica, Tokay, Sauterne, Riesling, Claret and Burgundy.
... During Prohibition, many California wineries shut down and wine production plummeted, but the grape harvest actually increased. The smart money cleaned up by not making wine. Instead they grew grapes by the long ton — getting millions in federal loans for new vineyards – and sold DIY wine kits.Ukiah Grape Products Co. sold fermentable juice and got clean away with it until a federal judge thought it a bit much that Ukiah agents, in outstanding displays of on-site service, made house calls to bottle their clients’ wine.
Fruit Industries Ltd. also sold juices and concentrates, and is even now fondly remembered for Vine-Glo—‘bricks’ of dried grapes sold complete with packets of yeast and stern warnings to keep the two away from water lest the unthinkable occur.
(Actually, what occurred was the undrinkable) ...
Courtesy of Brian Miller.
James Halliday at 11:48 AM
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
James Halliday at 2:14 PM
Monday, August 16, 2010
James Halliday at 2:13 PM
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Notwithstanding the huge bull effigy welcoming everyone as they entered, the explanation (apparently) is that Argentinean and Chilean approaches to beef are very different to that of Brazil, for the restaurant’s subtitle is Arte da culinaria Brasileria. Chef Stacy Thompson and wine director Raul Moreno Yague both have impressive CVs: Stacy starting in his native New Zealand, crossing the United Kingdom and Australia after a stint in the island of Morro de Sao Paulo in Brazil where, despite his very limited Portuguese, he leased a local restaurant from its owners, gutted and redesigned its layout, and created a successful restaurant that maintained integrity and respect for Brazilian cuisine. That must have taken considerable courage.
James Halliday at 10:49 AM
Monday, August 9, 2010
The early harvests of recent years are substantially due to the whole vegetative cycle for the vine starting early and finishing early. In other words, hang time (the period between budburst and harvest) has not been dramatically shortened; it is simply that dry, warm soils have caused trees, shrubs, plants and grapevines to spring into life earlier than normal. Unless the weather in southern Victoria and much of southern South Australia changes radically over the next two months (and the long-range forecasts suggest that there is a better-than-even chance that rainfall will either be normal or above-normal) the vines will enter spring with the soil profile filled with water. This should mean normal budburst and, hopefully, a reversion to a more normal ripening period.
James Halliday at 9:13 AM