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GG_SPARKLING_KEMPPhoto: Australian Craig McDonald, senior winemaker at Trius at Hillebrand Winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, with English oenologist Dr Belinda Kemp, from the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Centre (CCOVI), Brock University, Ontario.

TASMANIA, CANADA AND the UK may not be heavyweights on the world wine scene but according to researchers Belinda Kemp, Fiona Kerslake and Alistair Nesbitt they are developing successful niches as producers of high-quality sparkling wines.

The Australian state of Tasmania is located at 42° South with this parallel dividing the state in half. The North West, Tamar Valley and North East wine regions are north of this parallel and the East Coast, Coal Valley, Derwent Valley and Huon Channel regions are to the south.

The Tasmanian wine industry has grown significantly in the past decade primarily from an escalation in sparkling wine production.

England can be broadly defined by the 50° to 53° parallels with the majority of vineyards situated in the south of England.

As of 2012 there were 432 vineyards in the UK with 1297 ha in production (English Wine Producers 2013) and 1438 ha under vine – not far below Tasmania’s figure of 1,538 ha. In 2013 there were 124 UK wineries with an average annual wine production (using data from 2007 – 2011) of 2.58 m bottles (English Wine Producers 2013).

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Bacchus are the main Vitis vinifera varieties grown in England. Of the 50 plus varieties grown some are hybrids such as Seyval Blanc. The majority of wine production is sparkling wine (60 per cent of the total volume) while 30 per cent is still white wine and 10 per cent red/rosé (English Wine Producers 2013).

Like Tasmania and Ontario, historical records of sparkling wine production in England on a sub-regional basis are unavailable. UK wine producing regions have been decided upon by geographical location e.g. South East, by the UK Vineyard Association (UKVA 2013). The Welsh Vineyards Association was set up in 2013 but current UK wine production figures combine English and Welsh wine production figures.

The largest of the three emerging sparkling wine regions is Canada’s Ontario with 6879ha of vineyards situated between latitudes 41° and 44° north;  the polar opposite of Tasmania (VQA Ontario 2013). Three primary viticultural areas/appellations of origin have so far been identified by their soils and climate: Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore, and Prince Edward County.

There are currently 180 wineries in Ontario (139 are part of the VQA system) and 16 wine sub-appellations producing still, sparkling, late harvest, ice wine, fortified wines and fruit wines which contribute 71 per cent of total Canadian wine production by volume.

The increased focus on Vitis vinifera vines and less on native Vitis labrusca vines began in 1975 with Niagara visionaries such as Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser at Inniskillin Winery while hybrid wine production has declined since 1999 (Carew and Florkowski 2012). Today, there are vineyards in Eastern, Southern and South Western Ontario (Grape Growers of Ontario 2013, VQA Ontario 2013).

Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario (VQA) recent sparkling wine figures represent a rapid increase in sparkling wine production quality both by the traditional method and charmat method produced from varieties such as Riesling.

CLIMATES

The climate in Tasmania varies widely across the State, from a growing season temperature (GST) (October – April), of 16C inland, down to 14C and below on more elevated, coastal sites. Along with the variation across the State, there is also a large variation observed between seasons that, similar to England, is most clearly reflected in the annual fluctuation of statewide yields.

It is common for Tasmania to experience mild winters, however like England and Ontario spring and sometimes late autumn frosts are relatively common. Throughout the season in all three regions, and particularly around harvest time, it is often wet and humid, creating disease management issues. For the Tasmanian 2013 vintage there were 1538 bearing hectares, which produced 11,392 tonnes of fruit (Wine Tasmania 2013), a record high for the State and indicative of the unusually warm and dry season.

Climatic conditions in England vary, but generally it has cool-to-temperate summers and relatively mild winters. Growing season average temperatures during the last 13 years for England as a whole have ranged from 12.8C to 14.6C. There are many regional variations and microclimates in England with the South and South-East of England being more exposed to the continental tropical air mass which brings warm dry air. Regional, inter and intra-annual climatic and weather variations impact yield and quality on an annual basis. English grapes are being grown at the northern limits of commercial viticulture and like Tasmania yields can be low, in some years challenging the economic sustainability of grape growing.

The English 2013 harvest generally produced reasonable yields but meteorological conditions during the latter part of the season, in some areas, contributed to ripeness difficulties.

Wine regions in Ontario can experience harsh winters that can cause freeze injury to less cold-hardy vines and the high humidity in summer can be challenging. According to Kevin Ker, KCMS Applied Research and Consulting Inc., Ontario had slightly cooler-than-average 2013 growing season. Harvest dates were slightly behind the 10-year average due to cooler growing conditions. Yields were significantly higher with berry weights and cluster weights in some cases 25 per cent higher than normal.

Although final annual yield information (data collection started in different years) is available from Tasmania, Ontario and the UK it‘s collection technique varies i.e. hectolitres per hectare, tonnage and yield per hectare, making direct comparisons difficult. Nevertheless Figures 3, 4 and 5 illustrate the yield fluctuations in each region. The increase in Ontario wine grape yields since 2009 could be due to the introduction of the Plateau grape scheme for grapegrowers (grape tier system).

SOILS

Soils in each region vary immensely and Tasmania’s are incredibly varied across the State, from sandy, free-draining, nutrient-poor soils to deep, reddish-brown, well structured, light-clay soils. Niagara-on-the-Lake soils range from sandy loam soils to soils primarily consisting of red shale with a high silt and clay content. Niagara Escarpment has primarily clay and limestone soils. Lake Erie North Shore has a mixture of clay and sand while Prince Edward County has a different type of limestone and clay (Wines Council of Ontario 2013). English vineyards are established on a high diversity of soil types from the chalk seams, weald clay and greensand found in South and South Eastern England, to the red soils, sandstones and slates found in of the South West and Central England.

VITICULTURAL TECHNIQUES

Tasmanian viticultural techniques were surveyed in 2010 and it was found that 95 per cent of Chardonnay vines grown for sparkling wine are cane pruned as are 91 per cent of Pinot Noir vines. Bunch thinning reduced yields in 47 per cent of Chardonnay and 52 per cent of Pinot Noir vines grown. Just under half of the growers shoot thinned Chardonnay (47 per cent) and Pinot Noir (46 per cent) with leaves removed by 38 per cent of Chardonnay growers and 47 per cent of Pinot Noir growers.

Viticultural techniques used in England and Ontario have not been surveyed. However, there are a range of vine-training techniques applied in England with a mix of spur and cane replacement pruning systems used. Recently established vineyards trellis mainly for single or double Guyot systems.

English site specific conditions vary significantly, as does the degree of historical vineyard legacy and both contribute to a wide range of clone, rootstock, grape varieties, training and viticultural management techniques employed.

The majority of Ontario vineyards are cane pruned and planting densities vary in all three regions. Canopy management in each region is carried out i.e. leaf removal but “spare parts viticulture” is unique to the Ontario region and is not utilised in Tasmania or England.

This involves using two or more trunks as insurance against winter cold injury by providing a viable trunk in the event of freeze injury and “hilling up” the soil to cover and insulate the scion.

REGIONAL REGULATIONS

Like the regulation of Tasmanian wine production by Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – Standard 4.5.1, the Ontario Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) regulates, and sets standards for producing premium wines in Ontario (Rezaei and Reynolds 2010).

They believe that regulations should be adequate to protect the consumer but not so restrictive that they stifle innovation (VQA 2013, Voronov et al. 2013). Additionally International Canadian Blends (ICB) are a blend of imported and Canadian wine representing 73 per cent of Ontario wine sold and accounts for more than 54 per cent of the grape yield. VQA wines account for 27 per cent of volume sales and 46 per cent of the grape yield (WGAO 2013). Likewise English wine producers are able to attain either a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographic Indicator (PGI) for their wines by putting them through wine schemes sponsored by the UKVA (UKVA 2013). The UK wine regulations for PDO and PGI are enforced by the Wine Standards division of the Food Standards Agency. It is important to distinguish between British and English wine. British wine is produced from imported grapes or grape concentrate, whereas English wine must be produced in the UK from grapes grown in England or Wales.

SALES MARKETS

English wine is exported to several countries e.g. Japan, Denmark, Hong Kong, but there is a strong local market demand for English wine. The industry also benefits from its proximity to London, an international wine trade centre, and a strong domestic wine retail sector. The entire Tasmanian industry has 160 licensed wine producers across 230 vineyards, with 90 cellar door outlets. Figures show 45 per cent of total wine volume produced remains within the State, with 47 per cent of volume going to national markets and 8 per cent to international markets (with approximately 10 regularly exporting producers).

The total Tasmanian harvest is less than 0.5 per cent of total Australian wine grape production, making the industry small in terms of volume, however should that figure be represented by value, it would be a much more significant part of the Australian wine industry.

Identified growth markets for Tasmanian wine are China and Japan with current exports commonly going to the UK, US, Canada and Finland. Wines are sold at cellar doors in Ontario with wine tourism high on the agenda.

Many wineries have restaurants attached, offer delivery and wine club schemes whilst exports to countries including China, France, US, England and Japan continue. Wine exports from Ontario represent a large portion of Canada’s total wine exports (Carew and Florkowski 2012). Since 1927 wine sales have been regulated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) which has the monopoly on wine retail sales (Carew and Florkowski 2012) although some older established wineries sell their wines at small stores attached to supermarkets.

REASONS FOR SPARKLING WINE PRODUCTION: INCREASE IN EACH REGION AND FUTURE OUTLOOK

The amount of fruit grown specifically for sparkling wine production has increased over time as Tasmania and Ontario’s reputation for high quality fruit has grown. In Tasmania this has been driven by companies such as Jansz (owned by Yalumba) and Clover Hill (Taltarni) and has increased the demand for fruit. Vineyard expansion by Nyetimber Ltd, increased production by Ridgeview Estate and Chapel Down as well as the establishment of many vineyards i.e. Hush Heath, Gusbourne Estate and Rathfinny Estate continues to increase production of sparkling wines in England. In the UK a combination of capital investment, training, expertise and changing climatic conditions are contributing to a rapidly-expanding wine production industry (Turner 2010, Clout 2013).

The fruit requirements for high-quality sparkling wines can be met in each region although vintage variation remains an issue. The success of the Tasmanian focused companies has attracted a lot of interest from other mainland Australian companies to expand into Tasmania. Increasing their sparkling wine market share, either by producing wines in Tasmania or by purchasing fruit from Tasmania, has been a key driver. Purchasing land or grapes has also provided a means of mitigating against changing climates. Brown Brothers purchased the significant Tamar Ridge holdings with a focus on the sparkling wine and table Pinot Noir production, as a means of early insurance against the changing climate in their current vineyard locations (Walker 2012). In Ontario the emphasis on Vitis vinifera vines and increased consumption of Canadian wine nationally has been associated with premium quality VQA wine sales (Carew and Florkowski 2012).

All three regions are likely to continue their increase in sparkling wine production with a combination of confidence that warming temperatures, investment, innovation, new varieties in each region and developing market demand will contribute to their continued success.

Contact: Belinda Kemp. Phone: 0011 1 905-688-5550 (ext 6123). Email: bkemp@brocku.ca.

Authors:

Belinda Kemp: Senior Scientist in Oenology, Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), Brock University, Ontario, Canada.

Fiona Kerslake: Research Fellow, Perennial Horticulture Centre, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Tasmania.

Alistair Nesbitt: PhD candidate, School of Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, UK.

References

Carew, R. and Florkowski, W. (2012). Regulatory and institutional developments in the Ontario wine and grape industry. International Journal of Wine Research. 4: 33 – 44.

Clout, H. (2013). An overview of the fluctuating fortunes of viticulture in England and Wales. EchoGeo Revues. http://echogeo.revues.org/13333 {Accessed 2nd October 2013}.

English Wine Producers. (2013). Background: Statistics. www.englishwineproducers.com. {Accessed 18th November 2012}.

Grape Growers of Ontario. (2013). Annual Reports. www.grapegrowersofontario.com {Accessed 24th November 2013}.

Rezaei, J, H. and Reynods, A, G. (2010). Characterisation of Niagara Peninsula Cabernet Franc wines by sensory analysis. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. 61: 1: 1 – 14.

Turner, S. (2010). Networks of learning within the English wine industry. Journal of Economic Geography. 10: 685 – 715.

United Kingdom Vineyard Association (UKVA). (2013). Industry regulations and contacts. www.ukva.org.uk. {Accessed17th November 2013}.

Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). (2013). Wine Standards: Specifications for grapes and wine making www.vqaontario.ca. {Accessed 18th November 2013}.

Voronov, M. De Clerq, D. and Hinings, C, R. (2013). Conformity and distinctiveness in a global framework: The legitimation of Ontario Fine Wine. Journal of Management Studies. 50: 4: 607 – 645.

Walker, A. (2012). A History of the Tasmanian Wine Industry. Master of Arts Thesis, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia. {Accessed 20th November 2013}.

Wine and Grower Alliance of Ontario (WGAO). 2013. Ontario Wine Industry – Domestic. www.wgao.ca. {Accessed 24th November 2013}.

Wine Council of Ontario. (2013). Ask the experts. www.winecountryontario.ca {Accessed 24th November 2013}.

Wine Tasmania. (2013). 2013 Tasmanian Vintage Report. {Accessed 1st November 2013}.

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