Australia's wine producers have given assurances that they will be able to supply all their markets despite the 2000 harvest being far smaller than originally predicted.

A rash of new vineyard plantings in recent years compensated for reduced yields - up to 40% in several regions - meaning that the total crop was still a record, at 1.147m tonnes, a 1.9% increase on the 1999 crop.

It was taken from 10.5% more vineyards than the 95,000 ha harvested in 1999. "Although yields were down this year, the rapid plantings of recent years has meant that we can guarantee supply of all our markets," Winemakers Federation of Australia (WFA) CEO, Ian Sutton, commented.

Tom Park, executive general manager of Southcorp Wines, whose intake of 210,000 tonnes was 6% less than in 1999, says that there is sufficient volume to cover forward sales requirements for both red and white wine below $A10 price points.

Stephen Millar, CEO of BRL Hardy, which reported a 9.2% increase to 218,500 tonnes, only slightly below forecast, says the company will have "excellent wine stocks to be able to maintain the sales growth that the group has been achieving in recent years." Millar is now claiming that BRL Hardy is the country's largest wine producer.

Bulk producer Simeon Wines reported a 147,900 tonne crush, up 2.8% and "close to budget levels", according to managing director, Neil McKenzie.

Foster's Brewing Group subsidiary Mildara Blass recorded a 6% decrease to 49,100 tonnes, saying that its young plantings, particularly at Wrattonbully in the south-east of South Australia, meant that the yield from company-owned vineyards was 5% up at 24,760 tonnes.

The WFA figures show that the premium grape crop has increased 15 percentage points since 1994 to 86% of the total crop. Specialist red grapes made up 542,000 tonnes or 47% of the 2000 crop, 15% more than in 1999 while premium white varieties totalled 445,000 tonnes, down 7%.

Chris Snow