Shiraz juggernaut rolls on

Shiraz grapes

Shiraz grapes (Photo: )

Shiraz is on a roll – not only in Australia but worldwide. Australian shiraz is selling strongly at home and overseas, and commands a premium price. It’s our signature varietal and drinkers are paying higher prices for it.

Last week I took part in a shiraz seminar in the Hunter Valley hosted by the Department of Primary Industries, at which Mark Rowley of Wine Australia talked about the shiraz market.

He pointed out that plantings of shiraz in Australia and the world showed the greatest increase of any variety in the period 1990-2010, with 150,000 more hectares planted worldwide. That’s popularity.

While France has a far bigger total area than Australia, shiraz is 26% of our total planted area, whereas syrah is only 7-8% of France’s total area. So shiraz is of greater importance to us than it is to them.

Shiraz wines are commanding a premium price, says Rowley.

“Consumers in Australia are trading up in their shiraz purchases. The $16-$25 a bottle segment shows the strongest growth, but over $25 is also growing strongly.”

In contrast, exports of cheaper Australian shiraz have declined are now well below the peak of 2007-8, he said.

The opposite is happening in China, where there is,

“exceptional growth in the highest price segment – above $20 a litre FOB (free-on-board ship). It’s up 120%”.

Another surprising feature of the shiraz market is that, according to Aztec Data, sales of Hunter Valley shiraz show a massive increase over last year – up 30%. Rowley, and every Hunter winemaker I spoke to, attributed this to the success of the 2014 vintage. What a difference a great year makes.

At a time when the rest of the world is desperate for more Aussie shiraz, the US and Canada markets are flat. This is puzzling. One reason could be that the Americans, although they grow far less shiraz than Australia, are now producing some superb wines (and they’re promoting hard in Canada, which might account for our decline there). In recent weeks I’ve tasted two outstanding American syrahs from California’s Sonoma Coast region. They are Peay Les Titans 2013 and Arnot-Roberts Clary Ranch 2013. I believe the Peay wines are now being imported, although they’re likely to be scarce.

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