Arts & Leisure

Making wine as the climate changes

Posted on August 07, 2014

WHILE EXQUISITE wines are produced from closely guarded vine-tending secrets handed down through generations, wine experts agree that climate is one of the key controlling factors in wine production.

Banrock Station’s winemaker Paul Burnett
But the interaction between the climate and the soil suitable for certain grape varieties for wine production is increasingly coming under the threat from the effects of climate change.

As global temperature gradually rise, experts in viticulture -- the science, production, and study of grapes -- must constantly adjust to help maintain consistent yields.

Perhaps, no other wine-producing region around the world is more concerned about climate change than Australia.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that as much as 73% of Australian land used for viticulture could become unsuitable by 2050.

Another study by the Australian National Science Agency said temperatures in Australia’s main wine regions like the Hunter Valley and Margaret River are projected to increase by as much as three degrees Fahrenheit by 2030. The study said the higher temperatures would likely reduce grape quality by as much as 57% within the next two decades.

The effects of climate change on the winemaking industry has prompted Australian wine producer Banrock Station to raise funds for environment conservation.

During his visit last week to the Philippines to introduce Banrock Station wines to the local market, winemaker Paul Burnett explained that the environment thrust has set the brand apart from other Australian vineyards.

"Our winemaking philosophy is to create flavorsome, generous, value for money Australian wines, while demonstrating respect for the good earth from which they come," Mr. Burnett told reporters last week.

Banrock Station -- which started in 1994 -- has a 239-hectare vineyard developed out of a 1,700-hectare property in the heart of the Riverland area in South Australia.

Mr. Burnett said the Banrock Station vineyard grows 17 varieties of grapes, including the Mediterranean grapes Montepulciano, Tinta Cao, Touriga and Tinta Mole.

"Mediterranean varieties are proving great water-savers as well as producing a variety of flavors for today’s adventurous palates," he explained.

The winemaker said the vineyard is managed using best-practice techniques, including recycling all wastewater and using solar energy to power its daily operations.

Beyond providing quality wines, Banrock Station helps raise funds for various environmental projects around the world.

Mr. Burnett said they set up the Banrock Station Environmental Trust in 1995 to provide financial support for eco-friendly causes in Australia, as well as in countries like Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark, among others.

"Since 1995, the Banrock Station Environmental Trust has re-invested profits into environmental projects around the world, and our commitment to date exceeds A$6 million (about P243 million) to more than 130 projects in 13 countries," he said.

"Our ongoing commitment to environmental sponsorship is based on our own experiences in restoring and protecting our wetlands and woodlands in Banrock Station... Our commitment is also reinforced by ongoing improvements in environmental choices with our packaging, and use of sustainable techniques in the vineyard, and winery with water and energy," he added.

Since 2004, Mr. Burnett has been the winemaker of Banrock Station. With a background specializing in producing quality red and fortified wines, Mr. Burnett brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to Banrock Station.

Mr. Burnett said he is a South Australian local, completing his Bachelor of Agricultural Science on Oenology from the University of Adelaide.

He travelled throughout the Californian wine regions, a highlight of which was a stint with Blackstone winery, specializing in small-scale premium winemaking.

While working vineyards in Castelfiorentino, Tuscany in Italy, Mr. Burnett fell in love with Italian red varietals such as Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

For the Philippine market, Mr. Burnett said Banrock Station is initially introducing four classic wine varieties: Cabarnet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Moscato.

The Cabarnet Sauvignon has a bouquet of ripe red berries, black currants, and black pepper with hints of vanilla oak, while the Shiraz exhibits intense blackberry fruit over coffee and oak aromas, with a hint of clove and cinnamon.

The Merlot has lively and fresh blueberry and raspberry fruit aromas supported by a light, underlying sweet oak nuance, while the Moscato displays fresh grapefruit and lemon aromas.

Mr. Burnett said Banrock Station intends to bring in more wine varieties in the coming months, including its Mediterranean Collection, and its special infusions like the sauvignon blanc infused with peach and mango, and the rosé infused with strawberry and lychee.

"Banrock Station’s easy-drinking wines appeal to palates the world over. Each one of them comes with the added satisfaction of helping us help the Earth," Mr. Burnett said.

"With consistent quality and value for money, Banrock Station typifies what the world loves about Australian wines -- bold, generous, and full of flavor, with true varietal integrity," he added. -- Jeffrey O. Valisno

Future Trade International Inc. exclusively distributes Banrock Station in the Philippines. For inquiries, call 556-8724 or 556-8726 to 28.