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Bold Australian Shiraz Victim of Climate Change

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Aug 17, 2014 8:43:00 AM

Wine lovers of the world, may mourn the loss of bold Australian Shiraz due to climate change, but not everyone is accepting withering vines. Some are growing award-winning wine in Tasmania.

climate change wine

A Reuters article reported that, “A study by the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that up to 73 percent of Australian land currently used for viticulture could become unsuitable by 2050.

As the country's traditional wine-growing regions including the Barossa, the Hunter Valley and Margaret River grow ever hotter and drier, winemakers are rushing to the tiny island state of Tasmania. Average summer temperatures there are currently about 38 percent cooler than in the Barossa.”

And that is what Nick Glaetzer did when he abandoned “the Barossa Valley—the hot, dry region that is home to the country's world-famous big, brassy shiraz.” Glaetzer’s family had been vintners in the Barossa Valley for about 100 years.



Glaetzer's heritage and maybe his DNA, fermented a winning vintage, when in only five years, Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Pere Shiraz won a major national award—the first time judges had handed the coveted trophy to a shiraz made south of the Bass Strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland.”

When reading the Reuter's article, I had to keep reminding myself that South in Australia is more toward the Antarctic and would compare with a move North in the U.S. and Europe.

The article made me wonder a lot about wine. How will climate change affect French wines, the U,S. Sonoma and Napa and Lake County wine regions and the Washington state reds? An article in the Guardian said that climate change would mean some French wines would no longer be able to be grown in the regions for which they were named—those appelations—appellation d'origine contrôlée. Champagne, for example, might cross the channel to be grown near the White Cliffs of Dover. The article says that some areas, such as Oregon and Washington state in the U.S., would continue to be fine for wine.

A perceived downside of the new award-winning Shiraz is that it packs less of an alcoholic punch” “Glaetzer's version is 15-20 percent lower in alcohol content than its Barossa cousins.” But even the lower alcohol content may be little cause for concern.

An NPR program called The Salt interviewed wine-writer Katherine Cole, who said, "Low-alcohol wines are super hot right now. There's Txakoli, or Txakolina, wines from the Basque region of Spain, Rieslings from Germany and New York state, and Vinho Verde from Portugal, to name a few.

These wines typically hover in the 9 percent to 11 percent alcohol range. This compares to about 13 percent to 14 percent in a typical California chardonnay.”


Cole is a columnist for the Oregonian and the author of Complete Wine Selector: How to Choose the Right Wine Every Time.

Katherine Cole Complete Wine Selector



The broadcast warned listeners, “But don't expect to see a downward trend in alcohol in many red wines. ‘The low-alcohol reds are a challenge for winemakers,’ explains Andrew Waterhouse, a professor of oenology at the University of California, Davis. ‘[Lower-alcohol wines] have a more subtle complex taste and higher acidity than wines made from riper grapes.’

And he says the trend has been that most consumers prefer the distinctive fruity tastes that arise in very ripe red grapes.”

Glaetzer with his prize-winning Shiraz would likely disagree with Waterhouse. Sip on.

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