“Save Water, Drink Wine” is a slogan regularly brandished under the current drought conditions in the Western Cape. Fun yes, but the truth of course is that the drought has put severe pressure on the Cape wine industry with some pessimists even asking whether there will be wine to drink 20 years from now …
Let’s face it: climate change is a reality and weather patterns are shifting, worldwide. Creation’s Carolyn Martin however remains positive.
“Since the establishment of Creation in 2002 the climate here on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge has remained fairly consistent, mainly due to the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean which is only some 9 km away. We do experience dryer and wetter cycles but on average the rainfall at Creation has been 680 mm per annum which means we do not irrigate older vineyards unless we need to and that is only once a year most likely post-harvest. Generally our young vines are only irrigated in their first year. We’re therefore grateful to say that we haven’t been affected by the Western Cape drought so far this year.”
Asked for her opinion on how climate change will affect the wine industry, Carolyn replies: “I think in some areas it will become more difficult to grow vines and it may be necessary to rethink which cultivars are grown where. Meso-climatic vineyard conditions such as slope aspect, elevation and prevailing winds will become more and more important while climate change will also affect the styles of wine produced. Climate change is more evident inland than on coastal areas. As long as the Atlantic sea temperature in our area remains on an average 12 degrees Celsius we’ll have a stable climate in the Hemel-en-Aarde.”
Taking a global view Carolyn says the bigger effect may be in areas such as Burgundy and Bordeaux. “Where there is a more continental climate, there are impacts such as early bud break which makes the vines susceptible to spring frost. Hail due to warmer conditions is also proving to be a problem in countries such as Switzerland and Austria. I don’t think it’s just about drier conditions but also about temperature changes causing more thunderstorms with hail or a wetter harvest.”
On the upside Carolyn mentions that global warming could mean better ripening of the grapes in certain areas, creating for instance an opportunity to produce quality sparkling wine in the UK. “These areas where it has been hard to ripen grapes optimally before, may benefit if the climate becomes slightly warmer and drier.”
How will global warming affect wine quality, quantity and price? “In general smaller yields in the right areas will mean increased quality. At the same time a wine shortage will lead to a higher cost per bottle. There are however many factors influencing a wine shortage, for example economic factors in South Africa may have an impact on new vineyards not being planted.”
In conclusion Carolyn says: “Responding to the challenges of climate change in the wine industry will require a variety of strategies over the long term and change will be crucial. But then of course Mother Nature has her own caprices to be reckoned with.”