THE SYDNEY MORNING HEARLD/SMH.COM.AU
Swan Valley braces for bumper harvest
by Rania Spooner
January 16, 2012 – 5:00AM
The first grapes are expected to be picked from northern parts of the Swan Valley this week.
The nation’s early-bird wine region is braced to start harvesting this week with big hopes for a bumper season as the year’s fruit and wine export prices look ripe.
The value of Australian wine exports increased by 1 per cent to $2.69 per litre in 2011, according to Wine Australia figures released last week, marking the first value rise in five years.
But the volume of exports was down 10 per cent, which Wine Australia attributed to production falls over recent years from 1.42 billion litres in 2005 to 1.07 in 2011.
Stock levels have also fallen, reducing the availability of wine to export.
However, Swan Valley Winemakers president John Griffiths, who owns Faber Vineyard, remained optimistic about a fruitful season for the Swan Valley, north-east of Perth.
Wines of Western Australia general manager Aymee Mastaglia said Mr Griffiths was not the only Swan Valley producer poised for a good year based on the strength of the fruit flavour.
Despite early concerns about disease in the WA winemaking sector following a wet spring, the warm dry summer with cool nights and sea breezes has created beautiful fruit, according to Mr Griffiths.
“Our grapes are in excellent condition, ripening very evenly with plenty of flavour development,” he said.
The first grapes are expected to be picked from northern parts of the region this week.
“There’s nothing better than going into harvest when you’re a wine maker or a grape grower,” Mr Griffiths said.
“You’re just full of optimism, it’s a great time of the year, it’s battle stations and we get to really put our imprimatur on the year.”
The Swan Valley is one of the first regions to start harvesting across the country. In the coming days the region will begin picking, pressing, crushing and fermenting.
By March the harvest will be turned into wine. Most white wines will have hit the shops by winter, while many of the red wines will sit in barrels for about a year, appearing on the market in about 18 months.
As an export-orientated industry, many wine producers have struggled through the global financial crisis and ongoing global debt instability, as well as the appreciation of the Australian dollar, Mr Griffiths said.
“That’s made it very difficult for our industry coming off what was a very big boom through the 1990s and early 2000s,” he said.”
“It’s been four or five very difficult years in the wine industry where it’s been incredibly competitive.”
The internationally renowned WA wine region of Margaret River usually begins harvesting a couple of months after Swan Valley.