The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation has said that despite the individual pain felt by many winemakers in the country, the Australian wine sector is coping with the drought and frost that has hit this year's vintage. However, he also admitted that it was hard to put a number on the exact damage done by the difficult growing conditions.

In a statement released today, Corporation chief executive Sam Tolley said: "The three biggest growing regions, the Riverland in South Australia, the Riverina in New South Wales and the Murray Darling areas that straddle NSW and Victoria which between them produce 60% of our wine grapes, are predicting minimal losses at this stage.

"The industry as a whole is resilient and still very productive, and we are expecting the quality to be as good as ever for next year's vintage. A little more rain before then would be good, however."

Late-season black frosts primarily hit cooler climate regions with the Coonawarra/Padthaway wine regions in South Australia as well as the States of Victoria and Tasmania reporting the greatest losses. Wine regions such as McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley in South Australia were also affected sporadically.

Tolley said the full impact will not be known for some time as the season still has a long way to go before it is complete and growers have been able to assess how much secondary growth has occurred. The likely impact on the national vineyard, totalling about 150,000 hectares, in the 2008 season also can then be assessed.

"Despite many predictions we simply can't put a number on it at this stage," Tolley said. "Australia's 62 wine regions are very different and we are getting varying reports on how they have been affected and how quickly they are bouncing back. In some areas re-growth started quickly, but in others it may be too late."

The lack of rain has been more widespread - most of southern Australia is affected by one of the worst droughts in living memory, the corporation said. However it added that most grape growers have efficient irrigation systems and are able to water effectively, even where water allocations have been cut by governments.

"As with the frosts, different areas cope differently because of their individual conditions, the varieties of grapes they grow, and how long the drought has lasted," Tolley said. "Overall though, we are expecting a good quality harvest next year, if possibly a smaller one after three above-average years in 2003, 2004 and 2005 which averaged around 1.9m tonnes."

Tolley said a continuation of the drought could have more serious impacts in the future, however, particularly if water allocations are more severely restricted and this year's secondary buds, which will fruit next year, have had a hampered beginning.