Sirromet chief winemaker Mike Hayes. Photo: Peter Wallis
Sirromet chief winemaker Mike Hayes. Photo: Peter Wallis

‘Climate crisis’ is a game-changer for wine, says expert

ONE of the Australian wine industry's most respected minds believes a climate crisis could shape the future of wine in the country.

Former Australian winemaker of the year and current chief winemaker at Sirromet, Mike Hayes, believes changes in the climate could force hands within the industry.

"In the space of four days we've seen 1 degree and minus 1 just west of Stanthorpe and now we're seeing 35 degrees and howling wind," he said.

"People think there's no such thing as climate change or global warming... get real.

"There's been a general consensus worldwide - 74 per cent of the human population believe there's either climate change or global warming.

"Last week, the scientific consensus came out with 11,000 scientists globally signing a petition to say this is catastrophic.

"The wine industry, metaphorically speaking, is the canary in the coal mine.

"Since the year 1000AD in Burgundy in the town of Beaune they were measuring their harvest dates.

"They were harvesting in the middle of October and now they're harvesting in the third week of August.

"For it to be pushed forward … obviously the world is warming."

Mr Hayes said the saving grace for the Granite Belt wine industry, was its adaptation to emerging varieties. He believes vineyards could be forced to change how and where they plant their vines and look at drought tolerant root stocks.

"Where we thought we were prepared … we weren't ready," he said.

"I think the whole world has been caught out here."

Mr Hayes said winemakers could turn their attention to varieties coming out of places such as the Iberian Penninsula, Southern Italy and even Syria.

"These varieties have evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years and been able to adapt to the temperatures.

"Soon we might not be drinking French champagne from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 15 years time.

"We'll be making it from varieties from those hotter regions.

"We may not be drinking some of those wines we're drinking now."

However, some varieties such as cabernet sauvignon could thrive on the Granite Belt.

"The good point about this is the consumer is starting to adapt. They're starting to seek out those emerging varieties."

The Sirromet vineyard at Ballandean, which Mr Hayes oversees, has now drawn its last drop of water.

"Will we get fruit this year? I don't think so," he said.

"If we don't get rain in the next three to four weeks, it's all over for us."

That will mean the company will have to source grapes from outside the Granite Belt.

"It's our international market that is the main concern," he said.

"I'm looking at purchasing fruit from a couple of regions down south. One of those is the Cowra wine district.

"It's critical and it's dire.

"It has gone past that little argument in the pub about whether there's global warming or not."

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