How climate change, drought, bushfires and floods are affecting Australia’s wineries

Many wineries in Australia are quietly suffering amidst the freak weather patterns occurring across the country.

Climate change could reduce the quality, availability and increase the price of Australian wine in the not too distant future.

Dr Richard Hamilton, a direct descendant of generations of wine producers, said he is deeply concerned about what the future holds for Australian winemakers.

“The bushfires have wiped through a lot of vineyards in the Adelaide Hills region. Even vineyards that aren’t directly impacted be fires can be affected by smoke from nearby fires,” Dr Hamilton said.

According to Dr Hamilton, while the Adelaide Hills region has suffered damage from fires, and this may reduce the supply of white wines from the area over the next twelve months to two years, many other vineyards have not been touched, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely immune to the freak environmental conditions happening across Australia.

“Massive drought and heatwaves have affected crop levels across Australia. The impact of the drought on wineries will be less immediate than the impact on agriculture, but there will still be a significant impact. Unfortunately, we can’t just pick up and move our vineyard somewhere else,” Dr Hamilton said.

“The wine industry has always had to contend with agricultural risks such as frost, hail and flood. Now we have climate change which may be with us for many years which just makes everything tougher for growers and winemakers.

“Wineries rely on natural rainfall for their grapes, but in drought season, irrigation is a must. The amount of water being drawn for the river systems and the underground aquifers may be unattainable in a hotter drier climate.  Added to this is the increasing cost of accessing water.”

Dr Hamilton said there may be some serious impacts on the profitability of wineries in Australia and the availability of Australian wine to Australian consumers in the near future.

“In the short-term, prices will remain fairly stable due to the high supply of wines in the market. However, if these freak weather patterns keep up over the long-term, it’s possible that we could see some dramatic increases in the price of wine in the future,” he said.

“In the longer term, cheaper bottled and cask wines will be unsustainable and will be taken up by imports.

“As a result, the profitability of wineries will be diminished, meaning they won’t spend as much on expansion, growth and employment. Jobs could be affected. Wineries will cut costs where possible to avoid raising prices, leading to lower quality wine. We’re already seeing some wineries struggling to survive.

“In the future, we might see a lot of wineries deal with the difficult trade-off between maintaining price and maintaining quality. We could even lose some of our wineries, which will diminish the ability for Australians to access quality wine at reasonable prices.

“Unlike a lot of industries, wineries rely heavily on the environment for our business. So if the environment remains unpredictable, the wine industry will reflect that. With climate change promising hotter and drier drought seasons, these conditions may be something vineyards will have to get used to.”

According to Dr Hamilton, freak environmental weather patterns could also compromise wine exports and Australian ‘wine tourism’.

“China is a bit of an ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to the wine industry. China has a big thirst for Australian wine, but they aren’t rusted on,” he said.

“Chinese buyers will jump to South America, South Africa and Europe the second Australian wine jumps in price.

“Wine tourism is a growing market for the Australian wine industry, but with talk of bushfires, drought and now floods, I suspect a lot of international tourists will be dissuaded from visiting Australia. People definitely underestimate the importance of wine tourism to the Australian wine industry.

“I really encourage Australians to support our wine industry. Buy Australian wines and visit and recommend our wineries to local and overseas friends and family. We produce the finest wines in the world right here in Australia.

“While international imports are sold in our market, buying Australian wines supports growers, local economies and jobs. The industry is also a big contributor to the overall national economy. Apart from the quality of Australian wines – this is a compelling reason to buy Australian.”

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