Cloning Grapes Will Save Australian Wine

Saving our goon from the clutches of climate change

Australian grapes are unique. So unique they have the potential to surpass other new world wines such as popular varieties found in America.

Michael McCarthy, Primary Research Scientist for Viticulture at South Australia’s Research Development Institute, has been testing cloned grapes in Australia’s warmer wine territories.
The aim of the experiment is to test how the cloned grapes will react to warmer climates particularly when temperatures in Australia are expected to rise dramatically in 50 years’ time (due to climate change). McCarthy explains the importance of the experiment:

Maybe the rest of the world might be more interested in some of our material. We have clones that just don't exist in the rest of the world anymore because our planting is clean. Phylloxera is not an issue, root-borne virus transmission is not an issue. We have planting material in Australia that is probably unique to the rest of the world.

McCarthy discussed the issue with vignerons operating in colder climates in Orange and central west New South Wales. The grapes cloned in one region may work just as well in other regions, saving many of Australia’s cooler wine regions.

[We are] understanding how wine styles within regions may change as that region warms up going into the future. What we are trying to do is identify sites across Australia that have the same clones in common. We take out the clonal difference and look at the wine style from cool to hot regions. So if this currently cool region becomes a warm region in 50 years' time how will those wine styles change?

The area in question is famous for Chardonnay which happens to be Australia’s number one white wine export, despite a decline of Australian consumption. 

The call for Australian wine overseas, particularly our Chardonnay, is evident. As recently as last year 765 million litres of Australian wine was sent abroad valuing at $2.2 billion. According to trade minister Steve Ciobo:

Unlike other countries, Australia’s winemakers are not restricted by rules governing what they can plant or the types of wines they can produce. This has allowed innovation to thrive, driving Australia’s reputation for quality, consistency and diversity

China was revealed to be Australian winemakers best customer, with the US, UK and Canada following.

The experiment will hopefully enable winemakers to continue growing quality grapes despite the predicted rise in temperatures in the next 50 years.

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