The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has just released the latest version of their report Vineyards, Australia. It contains a wealth of information including vineyard areas by Geographical Indication (GI) and details of the sources of vineyard water.
Australian vineyard plantings and removals
Since 2008 the Australian vineyard has been shrinking and one way to track this is by looking at the amount of new plantings and removals. In 2011/12, new plantings of only 940 ha were the lowest since reliable records began in 1995. Removals in 2011/12 were 2,863 ha, which is close to the long-term trend.
Although the gap between removals and plantings has narrowed considerably since 2010, there still remains an imbalance between grape supply and demand. National industry wine organisations called for a 20% reduction of the 2009 vineyard area of 157,000 ha as part of their Wine Industry Restructuring Agenda. This would equate to a net reduction of ca. 30,000 ha, of which about half has been achieved to date. With 12,357 ha of Australian vineyard left unpicked in 2011/12, we should expect the total vineyard area to continue to decrease for a least the next few years.
Given the amount of Manzanilla and Fino shifted in the tapas bars of Andalucia, it might seem natural that the largest sales market for sherry producers would be Spain. Yet until recently, their largest market was the UK largely through its imports of Cream Sherry. Most of this is sold just before Christmas.
Sherry sales (Data source sherry.org)
The extent of the decline is clear from the graphic produced from the data sets at Sherry.org. Since 2002, sherry sales by volume to the UK are down by 45%. A similar rate of decline is evident in exports to Holland. Total sherry exports were 552,000 hl in 2002 but only 302,000 hl in 2011.
This fall in sales since the sherry boom of the late 1970s is having a dramatic effect in Jerez itself. Vineyards have been abandoned, vines have been uprooted and unemployment has risen sharply. Yet sherry quality remains high and prices have rarely been more competitive. So apart from that Cream sherry, why not pick up a few bottles of Fino or Manzanilla the next time you’re at the wine store? Not only will your wallet and tastebuds be grateful but you’ll be assisting a great wine region as well.
In addition to its work on co-ordinating and supervising many aspects of the Argentinian wine industry, The Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura (INV) maintains and publishes a database of grape and wine production, as well as sales and exports. These data are detailed for the late 20th and 21st centuries, and more basic for the period from 1936 – 1990. Nevertheless, taken together they help elucidate a number of interesting long-term trends in Argentina’s more recent wine history.
Evolution of the Argentinian Vineyard, 1936 – 2011
The development of the Argentinian vineyard since 1936 has been dominated by Mendoza province. Mendoza is far and away the most important province for viticulture and changes in its vineyard area largely account for growth patterns of the total Argentinian vineyard. Post-WWII domestic demand fuelled rapid vineyard expansion, until a peak vineyard area of 320,000 ha was reached in 1980. This was followed by catastrophic decline through the 1980s as many vineyards were abandoned and a number of wineries were forced out of business. By 1992 the National vineyard area stabilised at just over 200,000 ha and the early 21st century has seen modest increases with the 2011 figure being 217,750ha.
The total number of vineyards since 1936 shows a similar pattern to the total vineyard area. A peak of nearly 53,000 vineyards was reached in 1980, followed by a sharp decline through the 1980s. During the 1990s the number of vineyards was still declining but the total vineyard area was roughly stable. Then in the 2000s the number of vineyards was stable at around 26,000, but the total vineyard area was still able to increase. These changes are accounted for both by a reduction of the large number of very small (<1 ha) vineyards and an increase in the small number of large (>100 ha) vineyards.
Changes in Vineyard colour, 1990-2011
Apart from the trend towards larger vineyard size, the past twenty years has witnessed dramtic changes in the varietal content of the National vineyard. The area of white varietals has decreased slowly from 60,000 ha to 43,000 ha. By contrast, the area given over to red varietals has more than doubled and now accounts for just over 100,000 ha. Pink varieties such as Criolla Grande and Cereza have declined sharply from 100,000 ha to 55,000 ha, reflecting the drive towards improving the quality of the Argentinian National vineyard.