Due to increased costs and international shortages of a vital ingredient in the winemaking process, wine industry suppliers have been advised to plan ahead.
Reduced supplies of diammonium phosphate (DAP), a nitrogen fertiliser typically used during grape fermentation, have harmed the industry.
Shipping delays and a drop in DAP supply from China, according to Jason Amos, head of Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (Wisa), have combined to raise costs, according to media.
“In the wine sector, I’ve seen pricing up to five times more expensive for us,” he remarked.
Previously, between 65 and 80 percent of the DAP used by the Australian wine industry was imported from China, according to Amos. “The amounts necessary in the wine industry are nowhere like as large as those required in… broadacre agriculture,” he remarked.
While there are European and local DAP producers, Amos claims that sourcing the product from these markets is more expensive.
Wisa is most concerned that small-to-medium wineries, such as family enterprises, would be unable to get DAP supplies in time for the 2022 crop.
“What we’re also seeing is that the big corporate organisations… have big tenders and have been able to assure supply continuity,” Amos explained.
Grape harvesting will begin in the warmer parts at the end of January and continue in the cooler regions until April.
When grapes are harvested, they are heavy in sugar. The sugar is fermented into ethanol (drinkable alcohol) and carbon dioxide using yeast strains.
Yeast is a type of living organism that feeds on nitrogen. “If they don’t have enough nitrogen,” Amos explained, “the ferment won’t finish.” “Nitrogen also has a significant impact on flavour and scent.”
The nitrogen used by yeast can come from either inorganic (non-carbon) or chemically organic (carbon-containing) sources.
Organic nitrogen, such as that produced by other yeasts, is accessible and might be used as a DAP substitute, but winemakers won’t be able to rely on it entirely.
“If the circumstances are poor – which we won’t know until harvest time – winemakers will require a combination of inorganic and organic nitrogen to optimise the winemaking process,” Amos explained. “It’s not a choice between the two.”
He stated that it was too early to predict the impact of the DAP shortage on consumers.
“I have no concerns about the quality of the wine produced,” he stated. “The winemakers will have to work extremely hard on a technical level.”