Australian winemaker Peter Lehmann Wines said today that it processed a record harvest this year. However, it also warned that looking forward margin remained under pressure.

The company reported a total crush of 18,947 tonnes in this year's harvest, up 32% on the 2003 crush of 14,302 tonnes.

The PLW intake was 14,587 tonnes (2003 9,506 tonnes) with contract crushing at 4,360 tonnes (2003 4,796 tonnes). The previous largest vintage experienced by the company was in 2002 when 17,070 tonnes were processed.

"The excellent vintage was a result of good timely winter rains, followed by fine sunny weather during flowering and subsequently throughout the growing season. The fruit processed was disease free, nicely ripe and in good sound condition," the company said.

PLW said that the vintage saw a strong demand for white varieties from all areas and prices were fully firm on 2003. However some red varieties were in oversupply and prices paid by PLW were in the vicinity of 20% down on that of 2003.

The quality of both white and red wine looks to be very promising, PLW said before adding that it would rate this vintage as well above the average.

Looking forward though, the PLW statement added that as indicated at the half year, the takeover battle that ensued during the second quarter between Allied Domecq PLC and Hess Group AG took its toll on the financial performance of the Company.

That said, it added that it has achieved further sales growth in the second half.

However margins remain under pressure with increasing demand for cheaper wines, stout competition in all market sectors, the high costs associated with doing business and the Australian dollar impacting on all export sectors.