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Canberra Today 8°/9° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Here’s cheers to a hint of eucalyptus

Tony Battaglene… says Australian wineries had been living with the effects of climate-induced greater temperatures “for 10 years”.

Wine columnist RICHARD CALVER looks at the effect of climate change on wine production. 

THE cynics of this world define a politician as someone who promises to build a bridge even when there is no river. 

Richard Calver.

But the recent election has shown that there appears to be a new breed of politician who promises to fix the climate. 

Indeed, in his first week as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese formed part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue which met in Tokyo (not Hawaii). The leaders of that forum released a joint statement in which they committed member countries, including Australia, to taking action on climate change inclusive of implementing the Paris climate agreement. 

This relates to wine, I hear you ask? Well, in my assiduous reading of the “Daily Wine News”, I came across a link to a radio interview with Tony Battaglene, the CEO of Australian Grape and Wine (which came about on February 1, 2019, from the amalgamation of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia and Australian Vignerons.) The radio clip is headed “Global warming is changing Australian wines”. 

Patricia Karvelas was interviewing Mr Battaglene from France, which I counted was mentioned four times in the interview (sigh). The focus of his comments was on what additional higher temperatures would do to wine growing rather than any other effects that we have felt of late, such as the thunderstorms and hail that took out around 10 vineyards in Murrumbateman in January or the Lismore floods that seem to have made that rural town uninhabitable. 

But he was after all in France where a drought has subsisted for some time with my august daily wine bulletin telling me that the only French wine region not affected by drought is Languedoc in the south.

Mr Battaglene said that Australian wineries had been living with the effects of climate-induced greater temperatures “for 10 years”. In response to this phenomenon, he pointed to a move to Tasmania, albeit with land there being a finite resource, and the increasing utilisation of Mediterranean varieties. 

He mentioned increased plantings of fiano, albarino and tempranillo, as well as unstated Portuguese varietals. 

The conversation then focused on how the “old-world” wine industry was dealing with climate change. 

The issue of new varieties was raised again: apparently Bordeaux is permitting another six unnamed varieties to be introduced into its blends but given regulation is much tighter, yes, in France, that will be a slower process. 

The fact that some of the world’s most delightful sparkling wines are now being grown in Britain also came out, as did the techniques of stopping grapes from getting “sunburn”. 

This is something long practised in Australia with different styles of trellising and methods for cooling the surrounding soils, such as through under vine plantings.

In all, the Battaglene message was that the industry both here and abroad would adapt and survive. 

I would have liked to hear more about how vineyards can move away from monoculture. Most vineyards are monocultures, devoted to one crop. 

There is a developing discipline called agroforestry (which is not an angry bunch of climate-change protesters hanging out in a forest). It focuses on the cultivation and preservation of trees and their ecosystems, while maintaining vineyard production and reducing negative impact on the environment. It also means there might be a eucalyptus tinge more frequently in wine: real change.

If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.

― Terry Pratchett 


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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Richard Calver

Richard Calver

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