A leading grape growers body in Australia has attacked the country's wine processors for attempting to buy grapes at "rock bottom" prices despite the easing of the wine glut.

Wine Grape Growers Australia (WGGA) slammed offers of A$150-200 a tonne (US$117-156) as "predatory" and urged its members not to sign supply agreements until they have a "full picture" of the 2007 vintage.

WGGA executive director Mark McKenzie said today (8 January): "When Australia's largest wine company has already offered A$400 per tonne for inland region reds and A$350 per tonne for inland Chardonnay under annual supply agreements, it is unacceptable that some processors continue to sell the story to growers that the wine grape market is still on the bottom at the same levels as last year."

He added: "We also call on all the major wine producers to openly state their grape prices to give growers certainty about their income prospects for the 2007 vintage."

In the last two years, the wine glut in Australia has hit growers hard with a slump in prices and some, for instance, in New South Wales and Victoria seeing their contracts with McGuigan Simeon cancelled.

However, the drought and frosts that have hit the country in recent months are expected to almost bring demand and supply back into balance for the 2007 vintage.

McKenzie said some processors were still using the glut to justify low prices for grapes. "Wine stocks are half the level reported last year, so we expect there will be a firming in spot market prices as vintage progresses, and wineries begin to see the lower volumes of fruit available for purchase," he said. "The prime indicator is bulk wine prices, and they have started to move up."