The New Zealand wine industry is likely to benefit from a long term trend towards increasing dryer and warmer summers, a University of Canterbury (UC) weather expert says.
This is supported by a recent international study that suggests the country is better placed than most other established wine producing nations of the world to adapt to climate change.
UC meteorologist Professor Andy Sturman says production of wine grapes benefits from relatively constant warm and sunny conditions over the summer, which helps the grapes to mature and develop the unique flavours of the different varieties.
``The impact of changing weather patterns is likely to vary across the country, because of the effect of New Zealand’s complex and mountainous terrain. So some parts of the country may experience rather different temperature and rainfall trends than others.
``It appears that the belt of anticyclones that circles the southern hemisphere has drifted southward. This shift in climate zones is not likely to continue indefinitely so will probably stabilise after a while and New Zealand may settle into a new weather regime,’’ Professor Sturman says.
New Zealand’s wine exports earned about $1.2 billion last year. The area of vines in the Marlborough region alone totalled 22,861 ha in 2012, which is about 66 percent of the national vineyard area.
Professor Sturman is heading a $500,000 international research project into climate and vineyards which is expected to result in an increase of up to 10 percent in income for the New Zealand wine industry.
The two-year research project began in Marlborough this year and is using cutting-edge high-resolution computer systems to investigate localised vineyard weather. The international research team includes experts from Plant and Food, NIWA, and several French wine research experts.
``We are setting up a network of weather stations across the vineyard areas of the Marlborough region, as well as high resolution air temperature monitoring networks over selected areas, to investigate in detail the relationship between grape growth and the microclimate. Plant and Food Research will be analysing the grapevine response alongside our climate monitoring to enable us to identify these relationships.
``We are also running high resolution local weather and climate models that will allow us to understand the nature and controls of small scale variations in climate across the vineyard region. These will form the basis of models that can be used to help the wine industry adapt to the varying climate.
``Quite a few wine producers in Marlborough have been helpful in allowing us access to their vineyards to conduct the research, including Pernod Ricard, which is the largest company in the area.
``Our intensive analysis is currently only in Marlborough, but once we have tested our models we plan to apply them to other vineyard regions of New Zealand.’’
The data for the past few decades suggests that the typical variability in New Zealand’s weather from year to year will continue, but the overall trend is for more dry and warm summers resulting from an increase in occurrence of anticyclones (high pressure systems) over the New Zealand region.
Professor Sturman will give a public lecture on recent weather trends at UC next Wednesday (April 17). For further details: http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/wiw/