THE following article was published in The Australian on Tuesday 1 April by Sue Neales.
South Australian viticulturist and winemaker David Bruer has no doubts that climate change is already affecting the way his grapes grow and his wines taste.
During the past 15 years, Bruer has observed winters becoming colder and drier in Langhorne Creek where Temple Bruer Wines is based.
He’s also noticed spring frosts being more frequent and summers turning into relentless scorchers, followed by sudden rainstorms that threaten to turn vines mouldy.
And each autumn for the past 14 years, his grapes have ripened almost a day earlier, bringing forward the end of harvest from Anzac Day to early April.
“We are at the pointy end of climate change; there is no doubt that since 2000 we started to -notice things going awry and by 2005 it was obvious to every vineyard and winemaker in Australia,” Bruer said.
“This is crazy stuff. Yields are down, we are picking earlier than ever before and that means we are not getting the flavours we usually do, while alcohol and acid content is up and peak flavour different; it’s something I never thought I would have to deal with in my life.”
This week’s UN report on climate change backed up Bruer’s own observations, predicting that farming and food production in southeast Australia — particularly in the irrigated Murray-Darling Basin — will suffer as rainfall decreases and becomes more variable, summers become hotter and floods, storms and frosts more frequent.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report also warned farmers would be forced to consider relocating or shifting the focus of their operations to cope with harsher and drier climatic conditions.
Bruer, who is part of a federal government climate change adaptation program, has done that.
He has spread his risk by buying new vineyards in two locations in South Australia — in the Eden Valley and on the Murray River at Loxton.
He has also planted new grape varieties — mainly from Italy and Spain — that can cope better with hot summers.
“We can adapt to climate change and grow these varieties that cope better but the problem is finding a market for them and getting customers to accept these novel wines,” he said.
“I don’t think many farmers realise yet how incredibly serious this will be for them.”