Climate change and grape varieties

RieslingSchoden

Riesling grapes in Schoden, Saar, shortly before vintage 2009

Uff, I am reading in todays “Your Daily Wine News” newsletter that some of Australia’s top wine experts think that over the next 20 years climate change will be responsible for the decline of Shiraz and Chardonnay and the rise of varieties such as Vermentino, Arneis, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio and Viognier (some call them “alternative varieties”).

This is bad news for me and my own small vineyard. At Two Hills Vineyard we have concentrated on some of the traditional French varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay (first vintage in 2011 or 2012). Our fruit ripens usually well (if we do not suffer severe frosts) and shows a superior quality. But will that persist under the conditions of climate change?

I still remember vividly how I pulled out the 2 1/2 acres of Cabernet. it was hard work, wrapping a chain around every single vine and lifting the hydraulic of the tractor. I should have left them in, I guess. If temperatures rise in Glenburn, the drought persits, and/or we’ll have less percipitation in the future, Cabernet could have been the ideal variety for our spot. I ripped the vines out because the grapes would not fully ripen. At the moment we have sufficient water, our two dams are overflowing after years of drought but that might change quickly again.

Another issue is age, my age. At 55 I might still have a chance to enjoy some of the coming Chardonnay vintages but replanting would “cost” me many years of waiting. I could contemplate to plant on our second hill where we still have another 5-6 acres of space. Well, let us see what is going to come.

At least there is no politician who tells me what to do and chances are small that an elector such as Clemens Wenzeslaus of Saxonia, who changed the Mosel by instructing vintners to ripp out their red varieties and replant with Riesling, would appear on the Australian scene. However, danger is looming from the anti-alcohol lobby in Canberra which is working day and night to convince law-makers that the purchase of alcoholic beaverages needs to be made more costly for the consumer and profitable for the taxmen.

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