Australia could be forced to give up its place among the world’s biggest wine exporters within 50 years and become a niche player, a new report predicts.
Britain’s oldest independent wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd, believes that hotter temperatures and water shortages will spell the end of mass wine production in Australia.
It also has forecast China to become the world’s top wine producer by 2058, which is also when Berry believes the traditional bottle of plonk will be replaced by cartons.
Berry’s study of what the global industry will look like 50 years hence, detailed in The Australian, paints a disturbing picture for the land Down Under, which last year exported nearly $3 billion worth of wine.
It said the effects of climate change will hit traditional wine growing regions in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, and force producers to move to the cooler climes of Tasmania to focus on high-quality, boutique wines.
“By 2058, Australia will be too hot and arid to support large areas of vine,” Berry’s report said.
“It will no longer be renowned for volume wine and will become, instead, a niche producer, concentrating on hand-crafted, terroir-driven, fine wine.”
If the predictions come true, they could have a dire effect on one of Australia’s most valuable agricultural exports. Australia has become the number one supplier of imported wines in the lucrative U.K. market, and is number two in the United States.
However, Berry’s wine buyer Jasper Morris said it is not necessarily all over for Australian vintners.
“There’s no reason why they couldn’t concentrate on the upper end of the market,” he said. “You can compensate for the lack of volume with an increase in value. The value of Australia’s wine exports may reduce, but the price per liter could go up.”
Morris said Australian winemakers could experiment with Spanish grape varieties, which thrive in hot conditions, while continuing to grow their famous Shiraz and Chardonnay grapes in cooler regions.
Another option would be having vineyards near the northern towns of Darwin and Cairns, where grapes could flourish in tropical conditions and be harvested twice a year to help Australia keep up its production of wines.
Other growers could set up wineries in China, which Berry tips will be the world’s biggest producer within the next five decades, with wines to rival the best from France.
“There’s so much land available and labor is extremely cheap,” Morris said. “If I were an Australian wine industry leader and was starting to get worried about the prospects for running large-scale vineyards, I would be investing in China.”
But the wine merchant said that, in the future, wine drinkers will not care where their favorite wine comes from.
The Berry report said the trend started by Australian drinks giant Fosters of sourcing grapes offshore from Chile and South Africa will increase, meaning that future wines will be “grape or blend specific” and known by their brand names rather than their country.
It also seems the tradition of buying wine in bottles could be nearing its end as retailers and importers try to cut costs. Instead, Berry predicts that “wine tankers” carrying cheaper and lighter cartons of wine will sail around the world en route to thirsty customers.