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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Palates worldwide warm to Aussie wine
Hill of Hopes Vineyard, Hunter Valley - ©Australian Wine Export Council
Exports are on the up for winemakers from Down Under
Exports of Australian wine have surged 24% during the past year, to a record 2bn Australian dollars ($1.1bn, £732.5m).

Connoisseurs outside the country now quaff 417.3m litres of Australian wine a year, and red wine is still the clear favourite.


Clearly Australian red wine is the flavour of the decade overseas

Lawrie Stanford, Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation
The speed of growth could make hardened drinkers stagger.

Three years ago Australian vineyards sold just half that much - worth A$1bn.

And 20 years ago exports flowed at the meagre value of A$13m according to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, an industry group.

Queen Elisabeth II drinking Australian wine
The British have taken a liking to Australian wine

But while the success story of Australia's wine exporters continues, Down Under the sales of Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and other varieties are actually declining, although only a bit.

Domestic sales fell 0.1% to 33.4m litres - a total consumption of just under 30 bottles per person per year.

Top 10 markets (litres)
United Kingdom (202m)
United States (95m)
New Zealand (25m)
Canada (19m)
Germany (12m)
Netherlands (8.3m)
Ireland (7.6m)
Denmark (6m)
Sweden (5.9m)
Japan (5.2m)

Australia is the world's fourth-largest exporter of wines, behind France, Italy and Spain.

The trade represents one of Australia's biggest earners of foreign currency.

Drinking the old colony dry

Britons were the biggest fans of Australian wine, gulping A$843m worth.

Within just four years, UK drinkers have doubled their intake of Australian wine.

Australian Vineyard
Australian growers are facing a glut of red variety grapes

Australia's wine makers can also take courage from the fact that a much larger and less mature wine market - the US - saw growth rates of 40%.

US drinkers are now worth A$583m to the Australian wine industry.

Other top growth markets were Canada (third most valuable market with a 30% growth rate), Sweden (up 37%) and Denmark (up 27%).

Grape growers see red

But despite the huge surge in sales, Australia's vineyards did bet on an even faster expansion.

Growth in grape production is outpacing wine sales, and farmers now face a glut in the market, especially for red grape varieties.

"It will be difficult for Australia to sustain these kind of growth figures because of competition from other 'New World' producers, and as the market in the UK matures", Stavros Elia at brokerage Taylor Collison told Bloomberg news agency.

But Mr Stanford of the winemakers' association said the industry's concerns may "be allayed by the fact that red wine sales accounted for 70% of the increased sales volume".

See also:

28 Jun 02 | Europe
14 May 02 | Health
06 May 02 | Business
12 Feb 02 | Business
10 Feb 02 | Business
21 Jun 01 | Business
13 Feb 01 | UK
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