2020-04-04 12:41:381970-01-01 00:00:00

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Australian Wine Industry Faces Toughest Year


The record-breaking temperatures and months of severe droughts have resulted in a series of devastating bushfires across Australia. Researchers have previously estimated that approximately  1 billion animals have lost their lives in the fires. More notably, Australia has identified more than 100 species who require immediate assistance as a result of the fires.

Yet, there too exists another area which has suffered immensely. The nation was ranked as the fifth-largest wine-producing nation with a total production volume of approximately 13 million hectolitres in 2016. The smoke that blanketed Australia’s east and south coasts have had significant impacts on the industry. Specifically, some wine manufacturers are scrapping vintages this year after grapes were damaged by smoke taint, which in turn gives wine a burnt, ashy or medicinal flavour. As a result, the fire offers a further blow to an industry already suffering from many years of drought.

Within New South Wales, Clonakilla winery located in the north of Canberra has revealed that it will not be manufacturing a 2020 vintage after analysis reflected unacceptably high levels of smoke taint across all varieties of grapes. As a result of the vast amount of smoke from fires every summer, the firm is therefore not confident in ensuring that the quality of wine is upheld. CEO and Chief Winemaker of Clonakilla further shared that the combined effects of the drought and fire have in turn made 2020 the toughest year for the Australian wine industry. Meanwhile, he too expressed intentions of selling earlier vintages and reconvene winemaking only in 2021.

However, Clonakilla is not the only firm that is bearing the brunt. Tyrell’s Wines in the Hunter Valley said it would be only be manufacturing one-fifth of its typical output in 2020 after tests reflected smoke-taint damage. The decision was made in conjunction with other factors such as elevation of vineyards, distance to the fires and the number of days the vineyards were exposed to the fires.

Presently, the NSW government is bearing the costs for wine-grape growers to have their fruit tested. Early samples obtained from Orange, Mudgee and Hunter regions revealed that some taint were significantly above critical levels. Additionally, the South Australian government is also offering subsidised testing for growers who operate in the fire-affected Kangaroo Island and Adelaide Hills.

The CEO of industry body Australian Grape & Wine Tony Battaglene said in an interview that the effects on fire-affected areas and producers were drastic. However, he asserted that even as close to 60,000 tons of grapes could be impacted, its effect on national output is less significant. This is because grapes could be used for other purposes such as grape concentrate or juice. Years of perennial drought are expected to have the biggest impact on the size of Australia’s 2020 vintage. More notably, grape crush will potentially witness a 10 to 15 per cent dip, on top of the 3 per cent decrease in 2018.

By Caroline Wong 

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