The last good vintage?

Media contacts: Thami Croeser: 0421 133 012 AJ Epstein: 0433 339 141

Winemakers stare down a changing climate

Tuesday 27 November 2012

A few places in Australia have the perfect terroir. But will they keep it in a changing climate.

Wine regions like the Hunter Valley or Margaret River are climatic ‘sweet spots’, combining just the right mix of rainfall and temperatures, in just the right soil, to grow the perfect grape for your chardonnay or pinot.

Now the climate is changing, and these sweet spots may be turning sour. Wineries in North America, Europe and Australia are noticing that grapes aren’t growing like they used to – they tend to be ripening up to a month early, before they’re the right colour or flavour.

Today Australia’s wine makers and scientists meet to discuss these challenges at the Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries Conference at the MCG in Melbourne.

Topics include:

Climate change is sending winery harvests haywire. A snip in time could help

Climate change is causing grapevines in Australia to mature up to a month sooner than they used to, and this is bad news for the quality of our wine. It could also make Aussie wine harder to sell if wineries must relocate – ‘made in the valley just south of the Barossa valley’ just doesn’t sound good, and relocating to new sites would cost the industry millions.

Treasury Wine Estates, owner of Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Yellowglen, has a simple alternative to relocation, that might yet save our favourite tipples. They’ve found that pruning the vines later can trigger vines to mature later – so that grapes ripen at times similar to what they used to, before the seasons started to shift. Dr Paul Petrie talks us through this discovery on Thursday.

A Rosetta stone in the orchard: turning abstract climate science into local adaptation

Under climate change, sea levels will rise and things will get hotter, but what does that mean for individual farms? It can be tricky to make sense of climate projections locally, and this can be a hurdle to getting on with adapting to a new climate.

South Australian researchers have developed a system that helps quantify exactly how much harm cherry orchards and vineyards face as the weather gets weirder. Peter Hayman worked with wineries and cherry orchard managers to turn the abstract risk of unusual weather like severe frosts into dollars-and-cents losses, and then talked about how those risks might change with the climate. Linking local knowledge to the global science of climate changing is helping farmers get ready for the changes that matter in their own regions.

Peter shares examples of real climate concerns for farmers on Wednesday at a conference on agriculture and climate change at the MCG.

Want to see the future of your vineyard under climate change? Take a walk downhill.

Peter Hayman and Dane Thomas have found a time machine for winemakers… A hill.

A walk downhill really can be a step into the future, because lower altitudes are often warmer. With climate change already on the move, stepping downhill to a winery that already operates in warmer conditions than one’s own gives an insight into what the future might be like.

Of course, the soils won’t be the same, and sometimes valleys are actually cooler, but with a bit of careful thought a winemaker can visit wineries that already function in the conditions that they’re expecting to see on their own land as global temperatures creep upward. Dr Thomas, a South Australian researcher, shares his scientific experiences of time travel on Wednesday.

For interviews: Thami Croeser: 0421 133 012, AJ Epstein: 0433 339 141