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Climate study to help grow NZ’s $billion wine industry

UC research project to study climate to help grow NZ’s billion dollar wine industry

French wine researcher: French wine researcher Dr Herve Quenol checking Marlborough pinot noir grapes at harvest time

A $500,000 international research project into climate and vineyards led by the University of Canterbury (UC) is expected to result in an increase of up to 10 percent in income for the billion dollar New Zealand wine industry.

The two-year research project headed by UC Professor Andy Sturman will begin in Marlborough this summer and will use cutting-edge high-resolution computer modelling and mapping systems to investigate localised variations in vineyard weather to help predict future environmental conditions for grape production.

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

``Our international research team includes people from Plant and Food, NIWA, and several French wine research experts. “

``This research will develop new knowledge of the impact of climate variability on wine production in New Zealand, and a set of climate/crop modelling tools that are forecast to increase income to New Zealand wine exporters, such as Pernod Ricard (NZ), Delegats, and Villa Maria Wines.”

``The application of the new modelling tools is expected to result in an estimated 5-10 percent increase in New Zealand wine export earnings of at least $2 billion by 2020,’’ he said.

The project would help New Zealand’s wine-producing sector to adapt to climate variability and to take advantage of opportunities that resulted from a changing environment. The wine industry is highly sensitive to variations in weather and climate which can significantly affect export quality, volumes and income.

Improvement in wine production through better knowledge of climate obtained using high resolution modelling and mapping research within vineyard regions would contribute to the future sustainability of high quality wine production in New Zealand.

Professor Sturman said the project would enable the industry to anticipate impacts of weather events on production and fruit composition during the growing season, and would allow the industry to take advantage of new opportunities arising from possible future climate trends, and to reduce impacts of adverse events, such as frost or high temperatures.

``The quality of wine is highly sensitive to environmental conditions, as the flavour of the final product is critically important to the marketplace, more so than many other crops such as sweet corn. Quality is so important and predicting weather variation in vineyard regions throughout the growing season is critical to the future of the industry. Grape quality is highly dependent on environmental conditions.”

``We are seeking to link microclimate models with crop production models to produce consistently better quality wine. We will work with our collaborators to produce tools to help the industry produce the best,’’ he said.


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