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Tim's Ravings

Posted by Tim Stevens on

Climate change

It’s the end of October and bushfire stoking 35 degree days alternate with a series of devastating frosts that have wiped out vineyards less favourably situated than ours across NSW and the ACT. The last “black frost” hit our Block 9 Cabernet pretty hard.

As a farmer and a country dweller almost all of my life, it certainly feels like the weather is getting more extreme. As a grape grower and producer of some of the nation’s finest Cabernet, I’m sensitive to even minor temperature increases – projected or actual.

I don’t want to get into the debate about cyclones and bushfire, whether climate change influences them and the impact this may have on other parts of society here, but I do want to talk about the potential impact on vineyards. For example, the difference in mean growing season temperatures between two great but starkly different French regions, Burgundy and the Northern Rhone Valley, is just 1.5 degrees celsius. Here in Australia, this is the same difference between the Yarra and Barossa Valleys.

While other factors also influence wine styles – soils, slopes, continental vs maritime and sunshine hours – these temperature differences do serve to illustrate the affect that climate change can have on vineyards. Another factor is how wet or dry a season is, and climate change science asserts that we are likely to get greater extremes. Anecdotally, I reckon we are already seeing this.

You may think me unwise as the owner of a commercial enterprise to express what has been turned into a political opinion in this country (as in many). Certainly my peers will not thank me for raising attention to the notion that some once ideal cool climate vineyards may not be as viable in the long term. It seems simply ridiculous however that the majority of us engaged in any form of agriculture, whose livelihoods depend on the climate feel compelled to pretend this issue doesn’t exist instead of contributing a “down to earth” and credible voice to the debate.

If climate change is happening, all vineyards are likely to see some impact on wine styles and this is something that needs to addressed not ignored.

If for no other reason than you love Australian wine and are partial to the finest drops we produce here at Huntington, all I ask is that you engage with the issue. Sit down with a glass of something delicious in your hand, and consider the costs and consequences of inaction vs those of action on the off chance that the weight of scientific opinion is right.

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