Viticulture

Climate predictions will help shape a future wine industry

By Jamie Salter

Over the next 80 years across the Goulburn Valley, Strathbogie Ranges and Heathcote region, temperatures will rise by about three degrees, rainfall will decrease by about 20 mm and frost-risk days will drop by two days.

These are the climate projections from new research conducted by the University of Tasmania and Wine Australia, called Australia's Wine Future: A Climate Atlas.

In the Goulburn Valley, the research forecasts rainfall to decrease from an average of 259 mm between 1997 and 2017, down to 237 mm from 2081 to 2100.

Temperatures will rise from the average of 19.6 degrees Celsius recorded from 1997 to 2017, to 22.6 degrees Celsius from 2081 to 2100, and frost days will drop from an average of 1.8 days between 1997 and 2017, down to 0.1 days from 2081 to 2100.

Seymour’s Wine by Sam owner Sam Plunkett said he was currently planning his next planting, and the research would provide insight into the future climate.

“Technology is helping us to adapt to climate change, and water is a very precious resource in maintaining healthy vines in a hot climate,” Mr Plunkett said.

“With capacitance probes, we use about a third less water, because we can see what's happening under the ground in the root zone.

“In the winery, we put in a 100 kilowatt solar system, which generates 140 000 kilowatts an hour of electricity, annually.

“The power was a lot cheaper and dropped from $50 000 a year to $25 000, so we can refrigerate plants to look after the grapes in hot summers,” he said.

Nagambie's Mitchelton Wines chief winemaker Andrew Santarossa said they were constantly re-evaluating vineyard practices.

“Rather than leaving vine canopies open and exposed, we are keeping them more condensed and closed, to shield the fruit from rising temperatures and those occasional hot days we may get through the growing season,” Mr Santarossa said.

“We are making our decisions not only based on water access, but planting position in the vineyards to protect the fruit during the peak heat times during the day.”

He said Mitchelton Wines was investigating alternative grape varieties from Spain, Portugal and southern Italy, which can handle rising temperatures.

Katunga's Monichino Wines winemaker Terry Monichino said he had hot and windy summers over the past four years, and has discussed ideas with winemakers on combating climate change.

“Drip irrigation is far better than flood irrigation,” Mr Monichino said.

“In the past, the drip tape was a foot above ground, now we lay it on the ground, so if it’s a hot windy day, you save a lot more water.

“We spray sea salt from nurseries on the vines which helps the plant grow stronger and become less prone to sunburn.”

Mr Monichino said in future, he would consider planting further south, or buying in grapes from regions south of Seymour, where there are cooler temperatures.

To view the research, visit: https://www.wineaustralia.com/growing-making/environment-and-climate/climate-atlas