Despite testing weather conditions in many regions of the state during the 2018-19 grapegrowing season, SA's 2019 total reported vintage crush has managed to climb slightly above last year's figure, and is an increase on long-term averages.
The SA Winegrape Crush Survey 2019, conducted by Wine Australia, showed the overall crush was 768,863 tonnes. This amounts to a 3 per cent increase compared with the 2018 reported crush of 748,484t, and is almost identical to the five-year average of 770,573t.
The biggest increase from 2018 was seen in the Limestone Coast zone, which reported a crush of 21,162t, 28pc above the 2018 crush and 29pc above the region's five-year average.
But the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills regions did not fare as well, due to reasons such as disrupted budburst and flowering, windy conditions, hail damage and a hot, dry summer.
These regions reported crush volumes between 25pc and 35pc below their respective five-year averages, but reportedly achieved very high quality.
In terms of volume, the Riverland was once again the largest contributor, with a 6pc increase from the 2018 crush leading to a 2019 total of 474,090t - the largest crush for the region since 2005.
The Riverland increased its share of the state's production to 62pc, contributing 35.9pc to the state's overall vintage crush value.
Riverland Winegrape Growers Association deputy chair Sheridan Alm said she was surprised by the Riverland figures, given it had been a tough season for many growers in the region.
But, she said this year's crush quality was "sensational", helped by minimal pest and disease issues, a smooth running harvest, and cool nights.
Comparing different varieties, 2019 was "the year of the reds" for SA, according to Wine Australia analyst Sandy Hathaway.
More than 80pc of new plantings in spring 2018 (including top working and replacements) were red varieties, with the total red crush being 465,718t, almost in line with the five-year average of 470,377t.
Shiraz made up 225,484t of the red crush, representative of the growing demand for the variety.
The total crush for white varieties was 293,145t, slightly lower than the five-year average of 300,196t.
The total estimated value of the SA crush made up just more than $630 million of the $1.17 billion national farmgate value of Australian winegrapes.
This was an increase on the 2018 contribution of $590m, and reflected the larger crush and an increase in the average purchase value per tonne, which sat at $746/t in 2019, higher than the national average of $664/t.
Ms Hathaway said the increase in prices may partially have been the result of early estimations of lower grape yields.
The season was unique, the ripening was unique, and the result has been exhilarating.
"There were some early fears that (the crush) would be a lot lower than it was, which would have driven some higher payments being promised or negotiated, and the overall crush came out higher than expected, but prices were already locked in," she said.
"It's good to see prices on an upward trend, and that's reflected in the export prices as well, which are increasing."
Ms Hathaway also said it was important to take an increased response rate into consideration when looking at values, with an increased number of respondents in this year's survey - 238 respondents in 2019 compared with 212 in 2018 - possibly leading to higher figures.
QUALITY A SAVIOUR IN TESTING CONDITIONS
Hahndorf Hill Winery co-owner Larry Jacobs said he and many other grapegrowers in the Adelaide Hills were "licking their wounds" after a tough season, which lead to a decreased vintage crush in the region.
Mr Jacobs, who mainly grows Austrian varieties, as well as shiraz, usually processes 100 tonnes of grapes each season, a figure that was was down to 65t this year, due to a series of meteorological events including cold, windy weather during flowering, bursts of frosts during spring, hail damage and a scorching summer.
"These events aren't unusual in isolation but when they're happening all in one year it's quite extreme," he said.
Mr Jacobs' shiraz production averages 5400 litres each year, but is down to 794L this year.
But he said the quality of the crush had been some of the best he had seen.
"(The good quality) was not just because of low yields, but because of a combination of factors. The season was unique, the ripening was unique, and the result has been exhilarating," he said.
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