Cool climate wine regions are warming up
What it means for Australia's wines and wine shows
The Mornington Peninsula is classified as a cool climate region, but the continual evolution of grape production in the region and the effects of climate change may see a new definition for the areas “cool climate”.
Red Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Society’s ‘International Cool Climate Wine Show’ organiser Steve Robin says in over 20 years of grape growing on the Peninsula producers are only just seeing which varieties suit which locations.
“In 1983 as the newly appointed Executive Assistant at the old Shire of Flinders, I was on a familiarisation tour around the Mornington Peninsula and saw a then relatively young man planting vines. That man was Garry Crittenden,” he says.
Garry, along with Lindsay McCall from Paringa Estate, was to become one of the most influential vignerons on the Peninsula doing ground-breaking work in developing the local wine industry. “These two both elevated their products to a high degree of quality and then developed their markets. They moved from innovation to branding.”
Steve says the locations for the two winemakers were markedly different - Dromana and Red Hill – with distinct micro-climates. “Their use of new ideas was challenging the old order – new ways of trellising and technological advances in the vineyard such as netting.”
New vignerons have followed these pioneers, experimenting with different grape varieties and strains. “Pinot Gris was developed on the Mornington Peninsula by Kathleen Quealy at T’Gallant and Sauvignon Blanc has also been trialled in small plantings.”
Advances in grape growing techniques and the experience of time have seen massive increases in the quality of product coming from the region and this is evident in the entrants to competitions, such as the Cool Climate Wine Show.
The 2008 Best Wine of the Show medal winner, the Pennon Hill Pinot Noir 2006 from Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, is representative of a quality wine from cooler slopes.
“The locus of Peninsula winegrowing is changing – from Red Hill to Dromana and now to Moorooduc with large holdings and even larger investments. Traditionally there have been large amounts of money from absentee landowners, but now there is a quantum leap in the cost of developing vineyards for the next wave of vignerons,” he says.
“These people are going to have to face the new revolution effecting the wine industry – that of climate change.”
Steve quotes CSIRO figures, saying since the 1950s south and south east Australia has had an increase in temperature of almost one degree Celsius, with more heat waves, lower rainfall and fewer frosts. Specifically in Victoria there has been 20 percent less rainfall since the 1990 and 30 percent less inflow into Melbourne’s dams.”
The CSIRO predicts by 2030 the regions harvest date may be 10 to 20 days earlier and that tonnage and quality will drop as the mean January temperate increase.
Cooler temperatures suit pinot noir, chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but as the climate shifts “we may even see certain grape varieties being pulled out! Witness the demise of Cabernet Sauvignon on the Peninsula due to its unproductive past in certain locations.” Due to the climate change already taking place, the International Cool Climate Wine Show may have to alter their criteria for entering the show. Steve Robin says that in 2009 at least one region, Orange in NSW, has dropped out because they no longer qualify - their mean January temperature has edged over the cut off point of 19.9 degrees Celsius.
The pioneers of the region have now given way to the next generation.
“Rollo Crittenden has replaced Garry, new locations have been developed and advances in technology have helped bring about a more consistent approach to winemaking and bottling – aided by the rapid introduction of screw caps,” says Steve.
These growers will likely find themselves experimenting with new varieties and styles to suit the ever changing face of the area.
Revised definitions for the International Cool Climate Wine Show
In 2010, an altitude criterion has been introduced by the International Cool Climate Wine Show panel, to reflect the fact that although some regions are warming up, above certain altitudes - currently 800 metres above sea level (MASL) – parts of regions such as Orange remain 'cool'. In Western Australia regions around Albany and Mt Barker are also included, and higher elevations of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.
Their exact conditions for entry are:
'Wines must be made from grapes grown either: South of latitude 37.5 degrees South, or North of latitude 37.5 degrees North or from a
property in the Southern or Northern hemisphere which has an average January/ July (whichever is applicable) temperature below
19 degrees Celsius, as confirmed by the nearest Bureau of Meteorology site, or vineyard site is above 800m in altitude.'
A copy of the wine show entry booklet with entry forms can be downloaded from the ICCWS website home page (under the VisitVineyards.com logo on the RHS). Note wine entries close 23rd April 2011.
The 2011 International Cool Climate Wine Show will be held from 24-27 May at the Mornington Race Course, Victoria. See listing below for full details.
- Mornington Peninsula (VIC)
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