According to Max Allen’s book, The Future Makers, the future of Australian wine is changing towards sustainability, which is being driven by a mix of economics, climate change and a shift towards more organic and biodynamic winegrowing.
Economic factors are having a substantial impact with the high Australian dollar affecting export to the US and others – however, this pales in comparison to the biggest long term challenge facing the Australian wine industry… climate change.
Climate change is a very real, measurable and perceivable issue that we all need to deal with sooner than later – and the Australian wine industry has known, or at least been aware of, the effect it will have (is having) well before Al Gore and Tim Flannery introduced their respective works into the mainstream public consciousness, last decade.
According to Max Allen’s book, back in 2000, Professor Snow Barlow of the University of Melbourne, and member of the Australian delegation to climate change negotiations, in Kyoto said, “By 2050, there will be 25 per cent less water available than there is today, and it will be much warmer… ripening periods will move forward by three weeks, into warmer parts of the year,” and this will have an affect on the varieties of grapes grown, and the types of wine styles that can be expected from specific regions: such as the ‘classic’ Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, or Hunter Semillon (The Future Makers).
This attempted consciousness raising of the Australian wine industry by Professor Barlow was, either, largely mis-understood, or altogether ignored by much of the industry’s BDP’s – instead choosing to concentrate their awareness of future issues to ‘water quality and use, and waste management’, as outlined in their 2002 report titled ‘Sustaining Success: The Australian Wine Industry’s Environment Strategy’. Falling on deaf ears would be an understatement.
In recent years, a few things have changed – such as the introduction of lightweight glass bottles, offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees, or paying to have someone else do it for them, even introducing Tetra Paks to package the wines in – but despite such positive changes, a cynic could easily interpret this as merely box ticking and check listing in order to comply with environmental performance evaluators, as created by the marketeers, rather than, and more importantly, by the vigneron.
Short of moving and re-planting entire vineyards on cooler, southern-facing slopes, or heading up surrounding mountain ranges, or further south to Tasmania there are some ways to create a more sustainable, climate friendly environment for the future.
Mulching vineyards to reduce a reliance on water, or, by replacing overhead sprinkler systems, which are excellent at dispersing evaporated water over vines, with a drip irrigation system a vigneron can have more control over water management for the vineyard. This system involves long plastic water supply lines that run down each row of vines in the vineyard, with each individual grape vine having its own individual dripper. With this system, a viticulturist can control the precise amount of water that each grapevine gets down to the drop.
Wind turbines, and solar panels are an excellent way of generating enough electricity for a winery, and any excess energy can be pumped back into the grid for later use. There are plenty of different shapes and sizes of wind turbines that can easily be adapted to suit, usually approximately 2.1 – 7.6 m in diameter and have the ability to produce electricity at a rate of 300 to 10,000 watts at their tested wind speed.
Returning to hand picking the vines, and reducing machine harvesting will not only make for a better quality of fruit that ends up in the bottle, but is also an easy way to reduce carbon emissions when it comes time to harvest.
In order to get most of these things right, however, first and foremost requires a shift in consciousness towards sustainability. Anyone wishing to subscribe to the idea of sustainability and all it encompasses, must commit 100%. You don’t lose weight by saying you go to the gym on Facebook – you must go, and go often.
Organic, and biodynamic certification is much more than just a badge on a bottle that is meant to look progressive and pretty to the consumer – an awareness to the threat of climate change to the Australian wine industry – your industry – is so much more than environmentally friendly check lists, and status updates. This awareness must quickly translate into an inherent philosophy.
A philosophy that governs and shapes each and every decision that is made for the future sustainability of the Australian wine industry – from the vineyard all the way to the bottle.
D// –The Wine Idealist
++ As noted, much of the content of this post, and my inspiration to write it can be attributed to The Future Makers, by Max Allen. For more information about the book, and where you can purchase a copy, go to… www.maxallen.com.au
I have been only very recently writing about sustainable winemaking in Australia, and New Zealand, but I have long been aware of the one of the Godfathers of Australian organic winemaking, Gil Wahlquist, of Botolobar Wines in Mudgee. His recent passing, on Friday the 4th of January, was a great loss to the Australian wine industry as a whole. A lovely tribute can be read here, by fellow oenophile’s, Bloodwood Wines – The Original Organic Gentleman: Gil Wahlquist Remembered. May he rest peace.
Happy New Year to all fellow Wine Idealists throughout the world, the universe, and beyond! I hope this year is full of delicious wine, discoveries, adventures, friends, moments, and fond memories.
D// – The Wine Idealist.