Wine Trends Down Under
One of the great ironies of the Australianwine industry must be that the country has, in fact, no native grapes whatsoever. Wine growing in Australia was only established in the late 18th and early 19th century by imaginative growers introducing Vitis vinifera varieties (the common grape vine native to parts of Europe, Asia and North Africa) to domestic vineyards.
Approximately 130 different types of grape are used by commercial vineyards in Australia, all with their different flavours, textures and drinkers. Wine production is still dominated by South Australia of course, with its world-famous Barossa region still formidable, with Tasmania a developing producer of high-quality wines also.
A look at domestic sales of wine in Australia shows that consumers here are both discerning as well as often quite traditional in their tastes. Another trend is that we have become more varied in our wine tastes over the last 30 years.
In 1987/88, Australians quaffed 333,543,000 litres of wine. Of this, a massive 61.8% was white wine – an understandable statistic when you consider our hot summers and general outdoor lifestyle, as well as the fine quality of homegrown white wines. Just 15.6% of the total was red wine, with sparkling wine at 9.9%. Dessert wine was next with 5.9%, with sherry, hardly a staple of Australian drinking, at 4.7%. ‘Other’ wines make up the final 2.1%.
By 2008/09 however, Australian drinkers’ tastes had changes notably. Firstly, over this time 429,900,000 litres were consumed. The proportion of white wine imbibed was reduced markedly – down to 47.5%. Red wine drinking has surged to 37% - more than double what it was 20 years before. This change shows both more sophisticated taste on the part of the Australian wine drinker as well as a greater concentration on producing good red wine on the part of wine producers.
Sparkling wine was slightly down to 8.5%, with fortified wines at 3.8%. Other wines made up the final 2.8%. Since 2008/9, figures show that sales of ‘other’ wines are on the rise: these include vermouth, carbonated wines, flavoured wines and low or no alcohol wines.
Another interesting statistic is that, over 2010/11, Australia-produced wine accounted for 87.4% of total sales, as opposed to 12.6% for import wines. This was down from 92.9% in 2006/7. Of the overseas countries selling wine on the Australian market, New Zealand is easily the most popular, followed by France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Chile, South Africa and Portugal.