This year's Australian wine harvest is expected to come in almost a third down on 2006, according to recent figures.

In a harvest update issued today (23 April), the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation has forecast that the harvest, which is almost complete, will come in 29% - 560,000 tonnes - lower than last year. The slide will see wine production slip by around 400m litres lower than 2006.

"Unprecedented seasonal conditions have reduced yields (tonnes per hectare) to a 30-year low," the AWBC said. "The national vineyard this season was subjected to drought, frost, bushfire taint and a widespread rain episode in mid-January. As a consequence, yields in 2007 are expected to be around 30% lower than last year, 28% down on the average of the last six years, and the lowest since 1976."

While the white crush is estimated to have fallen by 17% to 702,000 tonnes, 52% of the total crush, reds were harder hit, with the crush falling 39% to 639,000 tonnes, 48% of the total crush. The red share of the total crush is the lowest since 1999, the corporation noted.

In comparison to the last two seasons, when some grapes were left on the vine or dropped at harvest, the AWBC said that it was unlikely any of this year's crop will be left on the vine.

In spite of the lower yields, the quality of the harvest is expected to come in as "good-to excellent", the AWBC said.

"The reduced crop this season will allow existing excess wine stocks to be considerably reduced and to accelerate a return to more sustainable operating conditions," the corporation concluded.