It could be the ultimate Christmas bargain for the dedicated wine lover or canny wholesaler. Australian wine growers are desperate to get rid of five million litres, or seven million bottles, of premium red wine, the result of a bumper harvest last year and over-planting of vineyards. Unless a buyer can be found, the wine is likely to be poured down the drain or made into vinegar - a scenario likely to bring tears to the eyes to anyone fond of a nice drop of shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. 'It's a bargain waiting to be snapped up. If you have a bit of extra cash lying around, I would say buy it cheap,' said Rhett Marlowe, chief executive of the Wine Grape Growers' Council of Australia. 'In the past brokers in New Zealand have snapped up some very reasonably priced wine.' The unwanted wine is being held in storage tanks in Western Australia that must be emptied by next month in order to accommodate the 2003 harvest. Sarah Dent, the head of the West Australian Wine Industry Association, said some vineyards faced financial ruin if the wine lake could not be sold by late January. 'I wouldn't use the word dumping, but the reality is they do have to find a home for that wine,' Ms Dent said. The glut in red wine contrasts with a shortage of white wine grapes in Western Australia, especially chardonnay. The Australian wine industry has expanded dramatically in the past decade. Between 1995 and last year, Australia doubled its production of wine grapes to more than 1.5 million tonnes. Earlier this year one of the country's biggest banks, the National Australia Bank, issued a 'risk alert' warning its branches to be extremely cautious in lending money to wine growers. Mr Marlowe said Western Australian wine was more expensive than that produced in other parts of the country, making the prospect of a domestic buyer less likely. Australia was the world's fifth largest wine-producing country last year, after France, Italy, Spain and the United States.