The Changing Climate – Wine Time

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For the many of us whose livelihood is connected directly to the land and what it produces, we have known for some time that climate change is a reality. We are experiencing it now and have been for a number of years.

The intensity and frequency of major weather events are the obvious indicators, while there are also subtle seasonal changes occurring that are a constant reminder. Whether you believe man-made climate change is responsible or believe it is an inherent part of the earth’s natural cycle, the impacts affect us in many ways, including our food production. For us in the wine industry, the impact is significant, and grape growers need to take account of the changing climate in their planning.

Many grape growers have to rethink the varietals they are growing and make some difficult decisions about removing varietals that are no longer consistent performers and unable to tolerate the changing weather conditions. Varietal selection is based on what suits the growing conditions; also, the current wine drinking trends must be taken into consideration. In Australia we have been addressing the call of climate change in unison with a change of wine drinking trends, planting Spanish and Italian varietals that are well tolerant of warmer climates.    

A number of the large Australian winemaking companies have or are in the process of acquiring land and establishing vineyards in Tasmania. This is due to the suitability for growing on-trend varieties such as Pinot Noir, but also to secure land for the future where it is less likely to suffer from extreme heat events, which are becoming more common in traditional Australian grape growing regions.

Around the world we may see wine growing regions moving in a northerly direction. Places such as Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom may well be the Burgundy, Napa Valley and Rhone regions of the future.  Already in the United Kingdom, although not well known as a wine region, there is a growing industry producing quality wines, both still and sparkling, that are winning globally recognised awards.   

The wine industry in Canada has been growing healthily over the past few decades. While traditionally known for its “Ice Wine”, table wines are also of good quality and have a strong position in the wine world.

It’s a little way off, but Sweden is in its embryonic stages of developing wine commercially. There are small wineries selling domestically, but the climate outlook is attracting a growing number to the industry.   Each one degree increase in temperature equates to one to two weeks of additional growing season. A longer growing season allows more time on the vine for the fruit, which is something that will definitely help grape production in climates like Sweden.

It will be interesting to see in 10 years’ time what varietals we will be drinking and where they will be coming from.

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