Climate change hits wine making

Spend a day at a wine grape growers’ summit and, among many other things, you’re left with no doubt about the reality of climate change.  Spend another day with a savvy grape grower touring the Barossa and you’re left with no doubt about the cost of it and the uncertainty about where it’s heading. That’s not news for those who follow the wine industry closely at the production level, but for those of us who concentrate on consumption, the matter-of-factness of the change is rather startling.

Grapes ripening a month earlier, the compression of what were the usual different ripening times of different varieties, the search for varieties capable of handling hotter weather, the hunt for new [suitable farm land] as climate bands move, the threat to traditional varieties in regions whose reputations depend on them.

Would you believe French champagne houses are buying fields in Britain?

Sweden, an important customer for Australian wine makers, now has a fledgling wine industry as a result of longer, warmer summers.

But you don’t have to go to the other end of the earth to see the story. Turns out climate change is a force in developing the Tasmanian industry as warmer weather leads mainland producers to invest in the island’s cooler climate. There’s no end of science on the issue, if that counts any more.

Those more rooted by family and ownership in mainland vineyards are researching and testing grape varieties that might be able to handle more extreme weather events and farming differently to try to lower soil temperatures a degree or two.

My briefing notes from the Wine Grape Council of South Australia for a growers’ panel in part read: “Harvest dates across the industry are circa 30 days earlier than they were 20-30 years ago. This means that grapes are ripening quicker and in warmer months and this impacts negatively on flavour development. It also creates problems for wineries – whereas white grapes used to ripen after the red grape harvest they often now ripen at the same time impacting on winery logistics. As the climate changes these problems will only get worse.”

The Age: Michael Pascoe: 27 July 2015

Key Words: Farming

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