Global warming favours Kiwi grapes

Global warming could be a boon for neighbouring New Zealand which has been enjoying a growing reputation for its quality wines.

by: Adrian Bathgate | 19 Feb 2008

New Zealand's subtle flavoured wines, mostly whites such as Sauvignon Blanc but also reds such as Pinot Noir, are appearing on the tables of fine restaurants from London to Los Angeles and are winning medals at prestigious international wine shows.

Yet despite success at producing quality wines, New Zealand has long had trouble producing wines in significant export quantities due to its weather. New Zealand is one of the world's most southern countries and frosts and biting winds from Antarctica make it hard to cultivate wine-worthy grapes.

But that may change.

Higher temperatures due to global warming are expected to make cold areas of New Zealand more temperate and better suited to grape cultivation. So it's no surprise that New Zealand wine-growers are upbeat about a future that includes climate change.

"The big picture for New Zealand wine is very, very good," said Philip Gregan, chief executive of industry body New Zealand Winegrowers.

Wine is only produced in the warmer, drier areas of the country, mainly Gisborne and Hawke's Bay on the east coast of the North Island, and Marlborough at the top of the South Island.

But if temperatures in New Zealand rise by one or two degrees as predicted, then wine growing could spread to other regions of the country which are currently too cold or wet to support grapes.

Fine wines
As the summer sun beats down on his tree-lined vineyard, New Zealand winemaker Clive Paton believes the outlook for New Zealand's burgeoning wine industry looks better than ever as global demand for fine wine mushrooms.

As wine-growers navigate weather patterns to produce premium grapes, New Zealand wine is winning an international reputation for premium quality. Low volumes mean that wine-growers must focus on producing high quality wines to turn a good profit.

The number of wineries in New Zealand has also expanded from 90 when Paton started in 1990 to almost 600.

"Even if it does rise a half or one degree, it's still going to be a great place for growing grapes," said Paton.

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