11 Apr 2013

Study predicts big expansion in NZ wine-growing areas

7:01 am on 11 April 2013

A new study concludes climate change could more than double the area of New Zealand suitable for wine growing in the next 40 years.

Researchers in California and Chile have found climate change could expand wine-friendly regions in this country by 168% in the next four decades.

The study says classic wine producing regions such as California and the Mediterranean will experience substantial losses of vine-friendly land, while the opposite will occur in New Zealand, western North America and Northern Europe.

A viticulture lecturer at Lincoln University, Glen Cready, says the study identifies vineyard potential inland from Whanganui, in the Waitaki valley and in parts of Canterbury and Marlborough not yet used for grape-growing.

But Otago grower James Dicey says the negative effects of climate change, such as more frequent storms, could undermine the positives in his region where, he says, there is already plenty of good land available.

Climate scientist James Renwick agrees, saying globally the negative effects of climate change will far outweigh the positives.

Demand fuelling expansion

Dr Cready says grapes are already being grown in new areas identified in the report, but the main driving factor in those cases is demand not climate.

He says people have already expanded into other parts of Marlborough such as Seddon and Ward as well as the Waitaki Valley, where pioneers are pushing the boundaries of cool climate viticulture are "putting a tentative toe into the water" by planting a smaller vineyard.

"If there's high demand for a product then they're going to look for new areas plant - of course they're going to look in areas where the land is less expensive, because it hasn't been developed yet."

Dr Creasy says some of the findings in the climate change report can't easily be applied to New Zealand.