Margaret River’s wine region has proven a standout producer amid reports South Australia and NSW regions have suffered one of their worst vintage hauls in years. A new Wine Australia report has revealed key regions in the Eastern States saw challenges leading to the “smallest vintage in a generation”. By contrast, the report said Margaret River recorded one of the most lucrative vintages in recent years, with tonnage up 9 per cent on 2022. Factors affecting eastern vintages included high rainfall and lower-than-average temperatures during the growing season which delayed ripening and hastened disease. Industry challenges included yield caps, non-sale of uncontracted fruit and business decisions to take some vineyards out of production. Deep Woods Estate chief winemaker Julian Langworthy said cabernet, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc were his personal highlights of the “amazing” 2023 Margaret River vintage, which also finished later than normal. “Fruit volume was strong across the region, with little to no disease pressure and a very steady and smooth harvest period,” he said. “I hope that this puts Margaret River in a very strong position for sales growth, but it’s a pretty tough time in the Australian wine industry and our great niche is the extremely premium nature of the wines we make and the great brand that we are custodians of in the Margaret River region.” Other vintners said the ongoing impasse with China around trade tariffs was affecting prices, which was echoed in the Wine Australia report. Margaret River Wine Association chief executive Amanda Whiteland said the region’s contribution to the overall national harvest was small. MRWA modelling pointed to the 2023 vintage yielding 34,000 tonnes, 6 per cent higher than the five-year average. “The wine regions of WA are boutique, accounting for 3 per cent of the national crush when combined,” Ms Whiteland said. “WA regions have not experienced the same decrease in value per tonne. “To the contrary, this vintage Margaret River grape prices were up 10 per cent year on year, demonstrating strong demand.” Wine Australia market insights manager Peter Bailey said the smaller national vintage would have a direct effect on those businesses. “This smaller vintage, which will reduce the wine available for sale by around 325 million litres, is likely to have a considerable impact on the bottom line of grape and wine businesses all around Australia, at a time when the costs of inputs, energy, labour and transport have increased significantly,” he said. The worst-affected areas included the South Australia Riverlands and NSW’s Murray-Darling and Riverina regions. “The crush from these regions combined was down 28 per cent to 899,936 tonnes, whereas the crush from the rest of Australia’s 59 GI wine regions and 26 GI zones together was only down by 15 per cent compared with 2022, at 417,162 tonnes,” Mr Bailey said. He said there was stronger market demand for premium wines than for commercial wines.