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Projected Wine Grape Cultivar Shifts Due to Climate Change in New Zealand

Climate change has already been affecting the regional suitability of grapevines with significant advances in phenology being observed globally in the last few decades. This has significant implications for New Zealand, where the wine industry represents a major share of the horticultural industry revenue. We modeled key crop phenological stages to better understand temporal and spatial shifts in three important regions of New Zealand (Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, Central Otago) for three dominant cultivars (Merlot, Pinot noir, and Sauvignon blanc) and one potential new and later ripening cultivar (Grenache). Simulations show an overall advance in flowering, véraison, and sugar ripeness by mid-century with more pronounced advance by the end of the century. Results show the magnitude of changes depends on the combination of greenhouse gas emission pathway, grape cultivar, and region. By mid-century, in the Marlborough region for instance, the four cultivars would flower 3 to 7 days earlier and reach sugar ripeness 7 to 15 days earlier depending on the greenhouse gas emission pathway. For growers to maintain the same timing of key phenological stages would require shifting planting of cultivars to more Southern parts of the country or implement adaptation strategies. Results also show the compression of time between flowering and véraison for all three dominant cultivars is due to a proportionally greater advance in véraison, particularly for Merlot in the Hawke’s Bay and Pinot noir in Central Otago. Cross-regional analysis also raises the likelihood of the different regional cultivars ripening within a smaller window of time, complicating harvesting schedules across the country. However, considering New Zealand primarily accommodates cool climate viticulture cultivars, our results suggest that late ripening cultivars or extended ripening window in cooler regions may be advantageous in the face of climate change. These insights can inform New Zealand winegrowers with climate change adaptation options for their cultivar choices.


Climate change & its effect on our agricultural land