This year's wine harvest is expected to dip below last year's record performance, according to an industry body.

The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation said today (27 February) that, while the 2006 harvest should be good to excellent in quality, in volume terms the yield will return to the average, coming in at around 1.8m tonnes - 7% lower than the 2005 harvest.

Although spring rains had proved favourable to growth, periods of extreme heat in January have proved challenging, AWBC information and analysis manager Lawrie Stanford told local reporters.

"The tonnage figure does not take into account grapes that may be left on the vine," Stanford added. "It is estimated that 2% to 3% of last season's crop was left on the vine and there is every possibility of a repeat this season."

"This will allow wine reserves to be reduced to more reasonable levels while the good quality grapes from the 2006 harvest will enhance Australia's competitiveness in vital overseas markets," Stanford concluded.