In 2017, Wine Australia reported that alternative varieties were on the rise in Australia with some of the varieties to watch out for being Assyrtiko, Nero d’Avola, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Vermentino, Touriga Nacional, Fiano and Nebbiolo. So how has demand for alternative Australian varieties been growing since then?
In today’s Market Bulletin, we provide a comprehensive overview of Australian alternative varieties in regards to how much are planted, how much supply is available and how much is exported.
As there is no official definition of what determines which varieties are alternative, we have based this bulletin on the eligible varieties for the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show (see list of excluded varieties). More information about this discussed in the ‘What are alternative varieties?’ market bulletin.
In terms of plantings, the last official national vineyard collection by variety, available to Wine Australia is from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 survey with its results showing that alternative varieties represented 7.3 per cent of the total area of plantings across Australia.
South Australia is the only jurisdiction with a regular collection of plantings by variety through Vinehealth Australia, with the 2020 plantings of alternative varieties representing 7.5 per cent of all plantings in their 2020 South Australian Winegrape Crush Survey report.
The estimated tonnes crushed of alternative varieties in the 2020 vintage was just over 125,000. While this was 2 per cent down on the previous vintage, its share of the total crush moved from 7.4 per cent to 8.2 per cent given the total crush declined at a higher rate, 12 per cent.
Australian exports of alternative varieties based on label claim grew by 8 per cent in volume and 3 per cent in value in the 2019–20 financial year. Given many of these varieties are less known by consumers, only 1 per cent of exports display these on the wine label. However, they do make up 4 per cent of the wine content exported overseas. Despite an increase in both label claims and content of alternative varieties in 2017–18, export value has held relatively steady over the past three years.
Figure 1: Australian export value of alternative varieties in wine content and on label claims
The United Kingdom received half of the alternative variety label claim exports followed by mainland China at 10 per cent and the United States of America at 7 per cent.
Malbec, Durif, Viognier, Petit Verdot and Traminer were the top five varieties labelled on exported wine and wine content by volume.
Positive export growth from some of the alternative varieties to watch despite crush declining
Tempranillo was ranked at third in 2016 when it comes to global plantings according to the e-book Which winegrape varieties are grown where? (revised edition). In Australia, there were 736.1 hectares planted in 2015, ranking it 20th place domestically.
The estimated crush in the 2020 vintage was at 4774 tonnes, which was down 21 per cent on the previous year and down 8 per cent on average each year since 2017. Despite this, it remained in 23rd place. The average price per tonne was $995, which was higher than the overall average purchase price at $694.
While Australian exports with Tempranillo claimed on the label declined in volume in the past 12 months to 30 June 2020 by 14 per cent, the value of exports increased by 13 per cent with an average free on board (FOB) price of $8.92 per litre. Since 2016–17, there was growth in both volume and value on average each year, up 4 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
Fiano was ranked at 171 in 2016 in terms of total global plantings. In Australia, 111.2 hectares were grown in 2015, ranking the variety at 31st place.
The estimated crush from the 2020 vintage was at 2166 tonnes, which was down 32 per cent on the previous year and down 11 per cent on average each year since 2017. The average price per tonne was $727 and higher than the overall average purchase price.
Australian exports with Fiano label claims grew in the past 12 months to 30 June 2020 by 50 per cent in volume and 34 per cent in value to reach an average FOB price of $7.32 per litre. Since 2016–17, there was growth in both volume and value on average each year, up 47 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
Vermentino was ranked at 64 in 2016 when it comes to the total area planted globally. In Australia, there was 121.3 hectares planted in 2015, ranked 29th place.
Sitting in 34th place, the estimated crush in the 2020 vintage was at 1580 tonnes, which was down 20 per cent on the previous year and down 17 per cent on average each year since 2017. The average price per tonne was $734 and again higher than the overall average purchase price.
Australian exports with Vermentino claimed on the label grew in the past 12 months to 30 June 2020 by 11 per cent in volume and 1 per cent in value to reach an average FOB price of $6.81 per litre. Despite the recent growth, since 2016–17 the volume and value has declined on average 18 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.
Vintage and export results for the remaining varieties are summarised in the graphs below.
Figure 2: The ‘one to watch’ varieties – growth on the previous year and the annual growth rate since 2017 based on estimated tonnes crushed
Figure 3: The ‘one to watch’ varieties – growth on the previous year and the annual growth rate since 2016–17 based on the volume of wine exported for label claims