A drop in demand for premium wines and an oversupply of grapes is forcing Margaret River vintners to jump ship from the industry in increasing numbers.
Realtors confirmed nearly 30 vineyards were up for sale in the Margaret River wine region amid what had been described by local producers as the most difficult period for grape growers in recent history.
Acton Real Estate senior sales executive David O’Mahony told the Times they had nearly 20 vineyards for sale in the region.
“We currently have four winery vineyards for sale and about 14 commercial-style vineyards,” Mr O’Mahony said.
He said Acton received strong inquiries from Asia, in particular China, to purchase vineyards, but the burly Australian dollar was a deterrent for investors.
“The general negativity in the industry is a challenge with a view that things will change in the next two years,” he said.
“We expect the price of fruit to rise due to some shortages of quality fruit in the Margaret River appellation.
"Once prices rise, confidence will return for the growers.”
Stocker Preston’s Jill Turton said she couldn’t confirm how many vineyards were on the listings, but she said the likelihood of a sale was glib in today’s market.
“Our experience has been that buyers are few and far between with most interest at this time from overseas buyers,” she said.
“The interested parties are selective and take plenty of time to make their decisions.
“Most commercial enterprises with a level of specialist expertise required to operate at are not easy to sell in any market.”
Broomstick Estate owner Robert Holloway said he recently withdrew his property from the market and decided to lease it out.
Mr Holloway said cheap labels, the strong Australian dollar and an oversupply of grapes were killing the industry.
He said his 16ha vineyard, which he planted in 1996, was making less than half than it did 15 years ago.
“I didn’t get into the wine industry to make millions, but I also didn’t get into it to dip into my pockets year after year,” he said.
But Mr Holloway was optimistic about the future of the South West wine making region.
“I think Margaret River will be okay in the long term as it is known world-over for producing quality wines,” he said.
Cullen Wines’ Vanya Cullen said she was also hopeful the region could survive its biggest challenge to date.
“We are working hard to sell wine too and have always done so,” she said.
“I think Margaret River has great potential to make even better wines than it (does) now and already we have a wonderful reputation which will only grow in time.”