AFTER battling devastating weather conditions throughout the season, vignerons from across South Australia's major grapegrowing districts have so far recorded yields 10 to 15 per cent below average, after fruit quality was severely impacted by hail storms.
Though the finish to vintage still some weeks away, grapes for cabernet and shiraz have begun to be picked and industry insiders are quietly confident the quality will be sound.
But, whether or not these grapes will have a home is largely unknown, say industry representatives, as export trade tensions continue.
Export challenges are "certainly" a problem in the wake of China's tariffs on Australian wine in particular, and Riverland contractor Andrew Weeks said the impact on SA growers was still unknown but showing signs of substantial setbacks.
"It is difficult to gauge but it is certainly a problem. Some growers are looking at a 50pc loss in price compared to two years ago," he said.
"The situation is not ideal for reds."
Mr Weeks said whether or not individual grower purchase arrangements were heavily reliant on the Chinese export market, would determine the severity of the impact - and if grapes would simply be left on the vines, unharvested.
"It is difficult to predict how much won't be sold this year. The combination of challenges will likely have a big affect on growers," he said.
But on a positive note, most grapegrowers that were spared from losing the entirety of their crops, post-damaging storms, have mostly recovered in the Riverland.
"It has been very serious for growers that were affected, with some being dealt total crop losses and others up to 50pc, but thankfully it was not widespread," Mr Weeks said.
"Growers near Renmark were hit badly and yields, whether hit by storms or not, are down by 10-15pc.
"But grapevines can somewhat recover and most did."
Barossa Valley growers Kym and Troy Kalleske began harvest on time, at the beginning of March and, after being hit by hail, are surprised with the results so far.
"About 25 acres (10 hectares) at Greenock were hit by hail and strong wind - smashing grapes onto the grounds," Mr Kalleske said.
"It forced us to pick white grapes earlier - we lost about 20pc."
Despite the Kalleske's selling 90pc of their wine into the domestic market, Mr Kalleske said international shipping was causing "big" issues for the sector.
"Those trying to get wine into the USA or Europe have probably got a backlog of wine sitting in their wineries because of shipping constraints," he said.
It has been a bit of a slower start in the Langhorne Creek region, according to Grape & Wine executive officer Lian Jaensch, with the mild summer pushing vintage back by about two weeks.
"The cooling weather means we are just kicking into the red varieties now but we have had beautiful ripening days in the past few weeks," she said.
Ms Jaensch said cabernet growers were "chuffed" with the quality.
Trade barriers will without a doubt keep fruit on the vines this vintage, Ms Jaensch says, with a considerable flow-on effect from China's tariffs.
"The trade barriers flowed onto wineries have now hit the growers - there is no way around it, the region's red wine grapes will be affected greatly," she said.
At the end of most seasons, there is a reasonable spot market for growers to take advantage of but this year, Ms Jaensch says that will be removed.
"There are always buyers at the end of the season waiting to see what is left over but this year, the fruit needed has already been allocated and that figure is reduced because of the trade reduction into China," she said.
Early February signalled the beginning of the McLaren Vale region's vintage with Grape Wine & Tourism grower engagement officer Rachel Williams saying it began "slowly".
"It has been a bit slower start this year with the mild summer," she said.
"There has been some disease pressure this vintage because of humid conditions, as well as some uneven ripening. This has resulted in lower yields than last vintage."
So far, reports from both viticulturalists and wine makers is that grape quality was excellent.
Most vineyards will be harvested by the end of this week and, while harvest started a little late this season, it is expected to finish on time.
Adelaide Hills Wine Region executive officer Sarah Carlson said vintage had its "ups and downs".
"Hail in the spring and uncommonly humid, nearly tropical weather in late January has impacted vines," she said.
"During February and March we were blessed with a preponderance of mild days and very cool night,s which is excellent for gradual ripening. Cool nights permit good acid retention and flavour."
Ms Carlson said despite the season's complexities, for the most part it was mostly positive.
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