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Australia’s Best Wine Regions – Langton’s Classification V

Australia grapes

Langton’s, the important Australian wine auction house, publishes a Classification of top Australian wines every five years. Their latest (Classification V) was published in 2010 and included 123 wines that they regarded as being the “best performing ultra-fine Australian wines”.  What can this classification tell us about the performance of different wine regions and varietals?

Chart showing performance of Langton’s Classification V wines by colour

The Classification divides fine wines into four classes based on auction prices over an extended period.  Hence wines with a limited track record (<12 vintages) are automatically excluded.

The first point to make is that the vast majority (88%) of the included wines are red.  This might can as something of a surprise to lovers of Hunter Valley Semillon, Eden Valley Riesling or Margaret River Chardonnay. All of these wines have representatives in the Langton’s Classification V – just not very many of them.  In 2010, 39% of Australia’s then vineyard total of 152,000 ha was given over to white varietals, so at a top level we may conclude that white wines are an underperforming sector.  Yet varietals such as Pinot Gris and Viognier are relatively recent additions to the Australian vineyard.  Hopefully we can look forward to fine examples of these varietals in future Langton’s Classifications.

Best performing black grape varietals

Unsurprisingly, red wines are dominated by single varietal Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Although Merlot is used in top performing blends, there is currently no single varietal Merlot that makes it into this classification.  Is this one area where the market (and not just in Australia) seems to under-appreciate a potentially great varietal?  Two of the foremost up and coming black varietals in Australia are Tempranillo and Sangiovese, but with a limited track record  it will probably be several future editions of Langton’s before these varietals feature.

 

The best performing states are South Australia and Victoria with strong representation in all four categories.  In 2010, Victoria’s 26,000 ha of bearing vines was only a third of South Australia’s 72,000 ha, so its degree of representation in Langton’s is impressive.  Fine wines are being produced across the state, but with a particular concentration in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula regions of the Port Phillip Zone.  South Australia’s finest wines are more evenly spread across the state with representations from the Barossa Zone (Barossa Valley, Eden Valley), the Mount Lofty Ranges Zone (Clare Valley, Adelaide), the Fleurieu Zone (McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek) and the Limestone Coast Zone (Coonawarra).

 

Indian Wine: Production, Imports and Exports

India header

The Indian wine market – for both domestic production and imports – has expanded considerably over the past decade. Precise industry figures are not easy to come by as there is, as yet, no official compilation of wine statistics for India.  Not surprisingly, different sources seem to quote slightly different figures and sometimes appear to interchange production with sales.

Arguably the most reliable published information is that produced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of their Global Agriculture Information Network (GAIN).  Their 2012 Wine Market Update for India (pdf) was compiled utilising state excise data and combining this with various local industry reports and estimates.  While not perfect, this compilation has the advantage of having produced historical figures on a consistent basis.  It ought, therefore to reasonably accurately show the overall industry trends.

Indian wine production, imports and exports

The growth of Indian wine production, imports and exports is shown here utilising the USDA GAIN compilation. Production appears to have peaked in 2010 at about 130,000 hl.  Until then farmers had been increasingly setting aside land for the production of wine grapes. A poor harvest in 2009, coupled with a buildup of inventory at the wineries, caused many farmers to give up on wine grapes altogether as the industry underwent a painful period of restructuring. Exports have struggled to exceed more than about 10% of production as Indian wines compete unfavouably price-wise with New World competitors.

Wine imports into India, 2010

Wine imports into India dipped sharply after 2008 due to the combined effects of the gobal financial crisis and a drop-off in tourism following the November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. Since 2009 wine imports have continued to rise, reaching a high of 44,000 hl in 2011, despite the prevailing 150% federal tariff. France, Italy and Australia are the main wine exporters to India and together constitute over 50% of wine imports. The EU is attempting to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with India which, if successful, would radically favour imports of EU wines over other producing countries.  It would also put enormous pressure on domestic wine producers who are still dealing with their own problems of oversupply and disttribution.

2012 Global Wine Production – Lowest Since 1975

OIV

According to a Press Release from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), world wine production in 2012 is expected to be between 243.5 and 252.9 million hectolitres (Mhl).  The OIV believes that this represents the lowest production since at least 1975.

According to the OIV this increase is due to a combination of a decrease in vineyard area (EU, Argentina, Australia) coupled with a poor harvest in the EU.  With world wine consumption for 2012 estimated by OIV to be between 235.7 and 249.4 Mhl, the global wine surpless in 2012 will be close to zero.