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Heatwaves hit Australian wine output

Farm workers hand prune Merlot vines on a farm owned by Casella Wines near Griffith, 490km (305miles) west of Sydney.. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Wines from the southern hemisphere continue to gain market share in the world, but bad weather conditions in Australia and other countries could have an impact on production in 2009.

Sales of wines from so-called “New World” countries now account for almost 25 per cent of the world market, with exports rising 3.16 percent last year compared with 2007, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said this week.

“Compared with 1986-1990 when southern hemisphere countries had only 1.7 per cent of the world market, it is a truly massive evolution of their share,” said Federico Castellucci, General Director of the OIV.

Presenting the latest data on harvests in the southern half of the globe, Castellucci said the OIV expected wine production to fall 6.1 percent in 2009, with 50,065 million hectolitres versus 53,336 mhl in 2008.

The biggest fall, an 11.5 per cent decline in 2009, will be registered in Australia, the world’s sixth-largest wine producer with output of 1.24 billion litres last year and an expected 1.1 billion litres in 2009.

Heatwaves have caused drought and bushfires throughout the growing season in Australia, which hit wine-makers last year. This decline in wine exports in 2008 would be the first for at least six years in Australia.

“Australia had two unlucky seasons and heatwaves not only have an impact on production on the year they happen, but on the following year as well,” said Castellucci. “When production is down too much, you cannot keep the same level of exports.”

But the drop in Australian exports has been largely compensated by the rise of other southern countries like South Africa for example, which exported 412 million litres of wine in 2008, a 32 per cent increase.

Meanwhile, wine consumption has fallen 2.5 per cent last year in these countries, especially in Argentina, which saw a 10 per cent drop between 2002 and 2008.

“Fortunately, if I may say so, the harvests were bad, so we will not have much surplus,” Castellucci said, adding that wine consumption was nonetheless increasing in South Africa and Australia.

“In South Africa, the black population is more and more interested in wine,” he added. “And in Australia, it is women who started drinking wine. Before that, it used to be seen as snobbism to order wine.”

Wine-producing countries included in the OIV data are: Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and New Zealand.

Reuters

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