Home' Grower : Dec 2013 - Jan 2014 Contents 28 The South Australian Grower -- December 2013/January 2014
Patchy frost hits SA vineyards
By LAWRIE STANFORD
WINE GRAPE GROWERS AUSTRALIA
ADRIER winter in many parts of
Australia brought the attendant
fears of susceptibility to frost. This
fear manifested itself in October. Frosts
were reported in parts of Australia, to
varying degrees of intensity, around
October 14 and 15 and more particu-
larly on October 18.
The reports reflected both of the
broad types of frost by cause. These are
either cooling by radiant heat loss from
soil depleted of moisture that retains
heat, or low-lying areas into which
cold air flows and accumulates from
surrounding higher ground.
Reports of losses from frost have been
reported in Clare, the northern parts of
the Barossa and Eden Valley, parts of
the Adelaide Hills, Great Southern and
Frankland River of Western Australia,
the drier, more northerly regions of
Victoria -- Sunraysia, Robinvale, Echuca,
Rutherglen and other parts of north
Finally, with the Bureau of
Meteorology showing low rainfall in
August to October over most of New
South Wales' winegrowing regions, it
is not surprising that many parts of
NSW were affected, but particularly the
Riverina and elevated parts of the state
like Canberra and Tumbarumba.
Other regions escaped damage by
virtue of the employment of protection
systems, the moderating influence of
closer proximity to the sea or higher
relative rainfall in August to October.
Examples included Margaret River
and Mt Barker in WA, South East
South Australia, Southern Victoria and
With younger tissue more susceptible
to frost damage, earlier maturing varie-
ties like chardonnay most frequently
escaped damage, while later varieties
like cabernet sauvignon have been most
often mentioned as being affected, fol-
lowed by shiraz and gordo.
Significant crop loss has been reported
in a telephone and email survey of
selected growers in the key regions
reporting damage across Australia. For
example, up to 60 per cent and
occasionally even 100pc loss in some
patches of the Riverina resulted in 20pc
loss overall, 80pc loss was reported
in Canberra, comprehensive dam-
age in the Rutherglen, with 70pc to
80pc of vineyards affected in other
northern parts of Victoria along the
River Murray. Damage is estimated at
anywhere between 10pc to 80pc loss
on a vineyard-by-vineyard basis in the
Murray Valley but an overall likely
5pc loss, and some growers are not
expected to harvest a crop on the floor
of the Barossa Valley.
While significantly damaging to indi-
vidual growers affected, the reports
of percentage losses are likely to be
mitigated in an overall sense by the
patchiness of the damage. Typically,
frost damage is patchy across affected
districts -- depending on the location of
the blocks, the typography of individual
blocks, the stage of the crop's develop-
ment and so on.
The final impact of the October
frosts on the size of the 2014 har-
vest is extremely difficult to gauge,
not the least because the foundation
fruitfulness of the 2014 crop is not
yet fully understood. In addition, a
number of compensators for frost-
induced losses are possible, including
secondary growth, larger berries from
fewer bunches or subsequent vineyard
management practices to optimise the
On the other hand, a number of
factors may lead to enduring losses. In
cooler regions, secondary crops may
not ripen in time or the vines may
experience vegetative recovery but not
Moreover, with the knowledge that
secondary fruit will be of lower appeal
and value in an oversupplied market or
the general uncertainty about the eco-
nomics of harvesting affected blocks,
some growers may take the opportunity
to cut vines right back to restructure
them for improved crops in coming
vintages or for thinning secondary
growth. Hence, greater reductions in
production may result.
While the October frosts are likely
to impact the fruitfulness of the 2014
harvest, at this early stage of the season,
it is yet to be seen if there may be big-
ger influences on the final harvest size.
By DAN HARRISON
TAXING wine by its alcohol content would increase
annual revenue by $1.3 billion, reduce alcohol
consumption by 1.3 per cent and save $820 million in
health care costs, according to modelling published in
the Medical Journal of Australia.
Both the National Preventative Health Taskforce
and the Henry tax review recommended the wine
equalisation tax -- under which wine is taxed by value
- be replaced by a system of taxing wine according
to its alcohol content, in the same way that beer and
spirits are taxed.
Under the current arrangements, which the Henry
review called ''incoherent,'' excise per standard
drink of fortified wine is as low as 10 cents, while
for spirits or premixed drinks it is more than eight
times as much. Researchers modelled the impact
of four changes to alcohol taxation, and concluded
that taxing wine on volume was the most politically
feasible, despite other scenarios raising more revenue
and producing greater reductions in alcohol-related
harm. A spokesman for Treasurer Joe Hockey said
the Coalition had "no current plans to change alcohol
"The government will conduct a white paper process for
real tax reform that will lay down a new tax agenda which
will be put to the Australian people for their approval at
the subsequent election," the spokesman said.
Leading up to its 2011 tax forum, the then Labor
government committed not to change alcohol tax in
the immediate future, citing a wine glut and industry
restructuring. But Greens Senator Richard Di Natale
said an overhaul of alcohol taxation was overdue,
because under the current system some wine was
cheaper than bottled water.
''We've got a system that's a dog's breakfast -- it's
bad for the industry and it's bad for people's health,''
Senator Di Natale said the current system under
which wine is taxed on value encouraged the
production of high volume, low quality products, which
had harmed Australia's international reputation.
Winemakers' Federation of Australia chief executive
Paul Evans said the federation did not support any
tax increase, because it would harm the industry and
would not be effective in reducing alcohol abuse. He
said a tax increase would penalise the vast majority
of responsible drinkers, but there was evidence risky
drinkers were not sensitive to price rises.
But some wineries, including Treasury Wine Estates
-- owners of Penfolds and Wolf Blass -- and Pernod
Ricard, which owns Jacob's Creek, have previously
called for wine to be taxed on alcohol content.
calls for tax change
Clare Valley vigneron Craig Jaeschke said the frost had not been confined to valley
floors. "There have been patches halfway down the hill where the frost has hit, but the
bottom of the valley has not got frosted, so its a bit different."
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