November 25, 2014
Australia and the south of France, Italy and Spain will be known for raisins rather than wine if climate warming trends continue over future decades, Otago University’s Dr Jim Salinger told a 30-strong Catalyst audience in Queenstown.
French champagne companies were already buying land in the UK as temperature graphs from 1950s to 2000s showed a definite upward trend in temperature in wine growing areas such as Champagne, Bordeaux, Hunter Valley and Northern California.
The internationally renowned Kiwi climate change scientist spent seven months in 2014 researching climate variability and wine quality at Italy’s leading food sustainability institution, IBIMET-CNR.
His research showed that contrasting climates and weather patterns throughout the growing season resulted in quite different rankings of vintage Bordeaux reds and Tuscany Chianti wines – and that European lessons are applicable to New Zealand, where widely diverse climatic patterns occur across our different wine growing districts.
Continuous weather measurements showed Queenstown had 20 fewer days of frost in 2008 than it did in 1931. Midrange predictions were that our average temperature would be 1% higher by 2040 and 2° by 2090, with stronger westerlies, bringing more rainfall.
This would mean a change in wine varieties that would best grow here, from the cooler range Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling towards Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, he said. Some were saying our temperatures would more likely increase 4°, which would take us out of the range of Pinot Noir but let us grow Syrah, Malbec and Merlot wine grapes.
Dr Salinger is a leading international climate scientist on past and present climate trends, having studied climate change and variability in New Zealand and the South Pacific for over 35 years, linking climate trends with natural and anthropogenic causes.