Australia imports Cypriot vines in response to climate change

Climate change is prompting Australian wine researchers to trial drought-tolerant grape varieties from Cyprus.

The Cypriot varieties Xynisteri (white) and Maratheftiko (red) have just been released from Australian quarantine and are being propagated at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in South Australia.

The vines will be planted in trials that replicate those being undertaken in commercial Cypriot vineyards to determine their suitability for Australian conditions.

University of Adelaide PhD student Alexander Copper (pictured) has established trials under irrigated and drought conditions in Cyprus and the material from quarantine will be used to repeat these experiments in Australia to further determine their drought tolerance.

“We are seeing increasing temperatures and increasing frequency of heat waves in southern Australia and this is affecting vine harvest and putting more and more pressure on water resources,” Copper said.

“These varieties are very drought tolerant in Cyprus, often grown without any irrigation, and it is hoped they will be able to grow in Australian conditions with minimal to no irrigation.

“Australia’s popular grape varieties, including Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris are all French varieties that traditionally have been grown in parts of France with high rainfall and without irrigation. In Australia these varieties are typically irrigated due to our difference in rainfall, likewise our Rieslings which originally came from Germany.

“We do have some more drought tolerant varieties from Spain, Italy and Portugal, but I believe the Cypriot varieties will be more drought tolerant than these. They have been cultivated for thousands of years in Cyprus, tolerating very hot, dry summers, surviving on winter rainfall alone, very similar to our climate here in South Australia.”

Copper is funded by University of Adelaide and Wine Australia scholarships, and supervised by Associate Professors Cassandra Collins and Susan Bastian, and Dr Trent Johnson, in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

He said he hoped to have data ready for publication from the Cyprus trials early in 2020 and from the Australian trials at the Waite campus in Autumn 2021.

“After that we hope to run field trials in different regions of South Australia.”

Associate Professor Collins said the first part of Copper’s project was to assess consumer response in Australia to the Cypriot wines, which had been positive.

“Considering the similar climates of Australia and Cyprus, these Cypriot grape varieties have potential as environmentally sustainable wines which will require less resources and help in the future adaptation of the wine industry to a changing climate,” she said.

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