Category Archives: Climate Change and the Wine Industry

Mar 03 2011

Jasper Hill Vineyard: A Pioneer in Organic and Biodynamic Winemaking

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Jasper Hill Vineyard in Heathcote Victoria was one of the earliest Australian wineries to practice organic and then biodynamic agriculture. The vineyards, first planted in 1975 on unusually deep red-coloured gravelly loams derived from the rare, Cambrian age basaltic rock, have always been free of synthetic chemicals. All vines are own rooted (ie. not grafted onto non vinifera rootstocks), mulched with organic compost, never irrigated, hand-pruned and hand-harvested.

The two most renowned wines, the Georgia’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz and the Emily’s Paddock Heathcote Shiraz/Cabernet Franc are named after Ron and Elva Laughton’s daughters. Today Ron works with Emily on the production of seven Jasper Hill wines from three individual vineyards. Total annual production is around 3,500 cases.

Ron, who in a former life worked at Kraft in food technology, is a passionate environmentalist. As he explained to Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front ‘Chemical free farming is one way out of our climate dilemma and can help heal our planet, because living soils absorb more carbon. Making compost and applying it to our soils at the correct time can ultimately save our soils for future generations – so our backbreaking work of making many tonnes of compost every year is well worth it; keeping our soil alive and regenerating.’  (The Wine Front, 11 September 2010)

In my mind Mattinson’s review below of the Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz 2009 speaks clearly of the benefits of biodynamic winemaking. As I mentioned my previous post, The Return to the Terroir Tasting, the use of descriptors like fresh, pure, clean and precise are common in reviews of the best examples of biodynamic wines by our most respected wine critics.

Powerful wine. Loud fruit flavours of blackberry and cranberry. These flavours have a lovely juiciness though, adding freshness to what is a rich, Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Climate Change and the Wine Industry

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

As recently reported in the press, leading Victorian winery Brown Brothers has acquired Tasmanian producer Tamar Ridge Estates. The reasons for the deal, as stated by Brown Brothers CEO Ross Brown,  highlight how commercial winemakers are now actively developing strategies to accommodate the effects of climate change.

“The Brown Brothers Board has been carefully considering how global warming may impact our vineyards through drought and high temperatures and recently adopted a strategy to source grapes from cooler areas,” Brown stated the company’s media release. Tasmania is fast developing an excellent reputation for pinot noir and sparkling wines in particular, and Brown acknowledges that “[Tamar Ridge] is a very sound business that ticks all our strategic objectives for growth in pinot and sparkling, and at the same time reduces the risk of drought and associated high temperatures and scarcity of water.”

Winemakers are not the only ones trying to assess the possible impact of climate change on future grape production. Dr Leanne Webb from CSIRO, and the University of Melbourne have spent years studying the effects of climate change on wine growing and what this will mean for the growers and consumers.

Climate change is throwing up three main challenges for wine growers: phenology changes, limited water access and rising temperatures. Phenology is the timing of biological events, like bud burst, and evidence suggests that earlier ripening of fruit and a narrower picking window are already occurring in places like the Hunter Valley.

Higher temperatures and the reduced availability to water, especially in inland growing regions which rely on irrigation, are by far the two biggest concerns for Australian winemakers. But according to Dr Webb, climate change actually varies regionally, with temperatures accelerating at a faster rate in the central parts of the country and a lesser rate in coastal … Read the rest