Climate study tipped to grow NZ wine production

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Research into climate and vineyards could grow the kiwi wine industry by 10 per cent. Photo / Supplied
Research into climate and vineyards could grow the kiwi wine industry by 10 per cent. Photo / Supplied

A two-year study into climate and vineyards which kicks off this summer is expected to help boost the New Zealand wine industry's income by 10 per cent.

The University of Canterbury is leading a $500,000 international research project aimed at helping wine growers more accurately predict future climate conditions and improve production.

Starting in Marlborough this summer, researchers will use computer modelling and mapping systems to investigate localised variations in vineyard weather, said professor Andy Sturman.

"The New Zealand wine industry will be early adopters of this technology, while other horticultural and agricultural industries worldwide will also benefit," Sturman said.

An international research team would be made up of several French wine research experts, and others from Plant and Food and NIWA.

Together, the team would help improve knowledge about how climate variability impacted on wine production in New Zealand, Sturman said.

"The application of the new modelling tools is expected to result in an estimated 5 to 10 per cent increase in New Zealand wine export earnings of at least $2 billion by 2020."

According to NZ Wine, exports were worth a record value $1.18 billion in the year to June 2012, up 8 per cent on the previous year.

New Zealand Wine's figures started in 2003, when the value of wine exports was at a relatively small $281 million.

Although we account for less than 1 per cent of global wine production, New Zealand is now the world's 10th largest exporter by value and 11th exporter by volume.

Sturman said the wine industry was "highly sensitive" to variations in weather and climate which could significantly affect export quality, volumes and income.

The study would allow the growers to prepare for and reduce the risk of events like frosts or high temperatures.

New Zealand Wine research and innovations manager Dr Simon Hooker said improved weather forecasting would only be a good thing for the industry, which was focused on producing high-quality grapes.

"Quality is an absolutely critical component to the wine industry and a lot of the reserach we do is around that.

"We are not really focused on higher volume, low quality wines."

Hooker said being able to predict climate patterns further out would have "huge pluses for the industry".

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