THE Northern Rivers’ wet summers didn’t stop Douglas Kesteven from setting up a winery at Whian Whian two years ago, even though it’s not the ideal climate for grape growing.
Yet as luck would have it, this year’s rain stayed off until after harvest, giving him his best-yielding season to date.
“I’m not complaining,” said Mr Kesteven, whose Imogen’s Farm Winery and Farmstay near Dunoon produces mid-range $20 bottles of wine. “We had a good year.”
He says as a boutique winery that sells primarily at local markets, he is unaffected by thenational and global wine glut.
Although Australia’s wine production was down 5.4 per cent last financial year, it’s far short of the 20 per cent reduction needed to bring supply into line with demand, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia said.
The federation’s chief executive, Stephen Strachan, said as the glut had deepened since 2002, some winemakers have had to adapt while others were forced to let their grapes wither on the vines.
“A lot of people have come into this industry, but not everyone gets it right,” Mr Strachan said.
Mr Kesteven said many people were enticed into the industry during the 1990s to minimise their tax and by managed investment schemes.
He said wineries on the Northern Rivers would not be financially viable unless they were built on the ‘tourist track’.
Imogen Farm’s winery manages to stay afloat because it is only one part of the family business, with Mr Kesteven and his wife also offering farm-stayvisits.
The nation’s total grape crush for 2008/09 was 1.7 million tonnes, producing 1.2 billion litres of wine, down 5.9pc.
Exports rose by 5.2pc and domestic sales were slightly up.
The largest 13 winemakers crushed a total of 1.3 million tonnes, while the smallest 76 winemakers accounted for only 0.4pc.