Some Australian grape growers say they probably won’t survive this year’s harvest, because of the cost of keeping vines alive. Water prices surged above A$1,000 a mega-litre last year from around A$300.
A long drought is forcing winemakers to rethink the styles of wine they can produce and the regions they can grow in.
“We believe there are 800 to 1,000 growers predominantly in Murray Valley and the Riverland in South Australia who are going to have to make a decision this year about whether they stay or go,” said Wine Grape Growers chief Mark McKenzie.
Last year was one of the warmest on record for southern Australia, where all of the nation’s winegrowing regions lie, as well as one of the driest. And that is enough to change harvesting times as berries ripen earlier, which can also affect their quality.
“Climate change is the biggest issue we face. Relatively small changes in temperature and precipitation do have reasonably large impacts in terms of wine style,” said Winemakers’ Federation Chief Executive Stephen Strachan. “Wine is a bit of a bellwether in terms of some of the very immediate impacts you see from climate change.”
Wine exports total some A$3 billion. Australia is the number one supplier of imported wine in the United Kingdom with a market share of 23 percent and it is second in the United States.
The smaller 2008 vintage, made worse by a record-breaking heatwave which withered grapes on the vines, is expected to push up prices and spell the end of cheap bulk wine after a three-year glut that produced a rash of no-name brands called “cleanskins.”