That wine surplus that had everyone in Australia in a dither? Mother Nature has delivered an answer. A series of severe spring frosts hit several key regions in South Australia and Victoria in the past week. These prime growing regions already were reeling from drought conditions.
According to news reports, the cold weather is expected to reduce the country's total production as much as 25 percent in 2007. That alone should eat up about half of the estimated 100 million-case surplus facing the fast-growing Australian wine industry, but some growers could suffer a worse blow. Some frost-hit vineyards may not have a crop at all this year.
The frosts destroyed about one-third of new vine growth in Coonawarra, Padthaway and Wrattonbully, relatively cool climate regions in South Australia. Earlier, frosts damaged vines across Victoria, especially in Yarra Valley.
Time often revises early reports about frosts. Sometimes the vines prove more resilient than anyone expects. Sometimes it's worse. The x-factor is the drought. Australia has had a series of dry to drought years, and 2006 appears to be the worst so far. The vines were already stressed.