10 Apr 2013

Demand not climate expands wine areas, says scientist

8:07 am on 10 April 2013

A viticulture scientist says the expansion of grape growing areas predicted in a new climate change study is already happening in New Zealand.

The study, by Chilean and Californian researchers, has found that the area of land suitable for growing grapes would change substantially around the world under predicted climate shifts in the next four decades.

It 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.

It estimates that New Zealand's potential wine growing area could increase by 168%.

A senior viticulture lecturer at Lincoln University, Dr Glen Creasy, says grapes are already being grown in new areas identified in the report, but the main driving factor in those cases is deamnd not climate.

"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."

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.

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