How Australia’s wine industry adapts to climate change

We created a world-first atlas to help secure Australia’s wine future. Released today, Australia’s Wine Future: A Climate Atlas shows that all 71 wine regions in Australia must adapt to hotter conditions.

Tasmania, for instance, a cool wine region, will get warmer. Growers who produce chardonnay and pinot noir in this state may need to switch to shiraz, which is better suited to the warmer climate.

Climate change will cause Australian wine regions to become warmer. AAP

Hotter, drier conditions

Four years of research culminated in our Wine Australia-commissioned study. We used CSIRO’s regional climate model in order to provide very localized data on extremes of heat and cold, temperature, rain, and evaporation for the next 80-year period.

The research was based on a scenario of high carbon emission up to 2100. This is in line with Earth’s current trajectory.

Climate models predict that future change will be more affected by climate than by natural variability.

By 2100, temperatures in all Australian wine regions will rise by approximately 3degC. In most Australian wine regions, aridity (which takes into consideration rainfall and evaporation) is projected to also increase. In many regions, less frost is expected and heatwaves will be more intense.

Read more: An El Niño hit this banana prawn fishery hard. Here’s what we can learn from their experience

By 2100, growing conditions on Tasmania’s east coast, for example, will look like those currently found in the Coonawarra region of South Australia – a hotter and drier region where very different wines are produced.

It may become harder to grow varieties that are suited to cool climates, such as pinot noir and chardonnay.

Some regions will see more changes than others. The Alpine Valleys region, on the western slopes of the Victorian Alps and Pemberton, in southwest Western Australia, will both become drier and hotter and influence the varieties that are grown most successfully.

The map shows the current average temperature for growing season across Australia’s seven wine regions. The authors provided

Some regions, like the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, won’t dry out nearly as much. By 2100, a combination between humidity and increased temperatures will put vineyard workers at risk of heat on 40-60 days per year. This is the majority of summer. This figure has increased from 5 to 10 days per year.

Grapevines are highly adaptable and can grow in many different conditions. For example, they can be planted in the arid regions of southern Europe. While adaptations may be required, our projections show that all of Australia’s existing wine regions are suitable to produce wine until 2100.

Change is possible: Lessons to learn.

Wine growers in Australia are accustomed to the natural variability of climate and can, therefore, adapt quickly to changes. There is still plenty of scope for adapting to future climate changes.

To avoid excessive heat, vines will be planted at higher elevations or on slopes facing south. In the future, many wine regions will shift to different grape varieties. Some viticultural practices could change. For example, vines may be trained so that leaves shade the grapes to protect them from heat. Growers might increase mulching in order to retain moisture, and some areas may have to begin irrigating.

Atlas allows climate information to be shared between regions. To learn about how to produce wine, growers can consult their peers who are currently living in the same conditions as they will in the future. This includes both Australia and other countries.

Australians will continue to enjoy their homegrown wines if the wine industry adapts. James Gourley/AAP

The vine need not die.

Agriculture Wine growing is not the only industry that needs fine-scale information about climate to manage climate risk. For example, the forestry, water management, insurance, tourismemergency management authorities, and defence industries all need climate models that are specific to their operations to prepare for the future.

The average temperature of the planet has risen by 1degC since pre-industrial times. The global temperatures will continue growing for decades even if targets under the Paris Climate Agreement are achieved.

Many of the projected changes in the Atlas could be avoided or minimized if Earth’s temperature increase is kept to less than 1.5degC.

Australia’s wine industry contributes. Climate resilience decisions made now will determine the future of climate resilient sectors.

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