(POSTED: August 13, 2006)
Will global warming affect Nova Scotia's wine industry?
Grape growers, researcher study how climate change could affect vine, wines.
The Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia is working with
researchers to determine exactly how much heat grape growers L'Acadie Blanc grapes
have access to and which varieties of grapes best serve the
$5.3-million provincial industry. A recent article in The Chronicle Herald speculated that climate warming could spell disaster for much of the multibillion-dollar U.S. wine industry.
Jim Warner, president of the grape growers association, says if the predictions are correct in the long term, there will be an impact on the Nova Scotia industry, but grape growers will have to play the waiting game.
"In Ontario, the last two winters were the coldest they’ve had for years," he said. "Their grape-growing industry was damaged badly by cold temperatures and their production actually decreased by about 50 per cent to what it normally would have been. So (global warming) is not a universal trend that you can talk about in terms of impacting us here in the short term."
In the meantime, the association is working with researchers from the Applied Geomatics Research Group at the Nova Scotia Community College to study heat source accumulation. David Colville, a research scientist with the group, says the research will help the association determine which types of grapes to plant in certain areas.
"We look at heat accumulation units, minimum winter temperatures and we look at the length of the frost-free growing season," Mr. Colville said. "Those are the kinds of parameters grape growers have no control over. They’re at the mercy of Mother Nature." The five-year project should give researchers time to collect solid data and build up an understanding of the variations that occur. Mr. Warner said the study will show if Nova Scotia is getting continuously warmer temperatures in the winter that lead to less winter injury to the vines.
"We’d know the limits of the grape varieties, in terms of temperature, and that would help us select those varieties and it would also be useful for people looking at starting new vineyards in terms of suitability of different locations for growing grapes in Nova Scotia."
There are now 140 hectares of grapes in production in the province and a target of 400 hectares is proposed for 2020.
Nova Scotia produces about 500,000 litres of wine every year and the industry has been growing steadily at five to 10 per cent for the last six years. That growth rate is expected to continue over the next 20 years. About 30 new grape varieties are being developed at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Kentville to suit our climate.
"Some of the varieties are earlier ripening, at the end of September, and some are a bit later, between mid-September to mid-October," said Andrew Jamieson, a fruit breeder and research scientist at the centre. "Depending on the season, we can have a three-week difference in ripening."
This research began in the early 1980s. One of the rationales behind it was to find early ripening varieties. L’Acadie, a grape variety bred in Ontario, did so well here as an experimental selection that it was introduced and named after the region. It’s now the leading white wine variety in Nova Scotia. More of the grape varieties have now been made into test wines by Bruce Ewert of L’Acadie Vineyards and were recently sampled by a formal taste panel at Acadia University.
"We used L’Acadie as a standard to compare against and it looks like several of these selections will be as good as or better than it," said Mr. Jamieson. "I could determine what grew well, but I didn’t know what made the best wine. These experiments have helped determine that." He also said this growing season has had a warm start, albeit with lots of rain, which could lead to disease.
"But if August is warm and dry, it will be a great season. We had a mild winter with not much injury, so potentially it could be a large and very good crop this year if we keep diseases away. It might be the best year ever."
Source: The Herald - By Melanie Furlong
Photo: Kaki - Dreamstime.com