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If You Believe The Rest of the World, Australia Will Soon Spontaneously Combust

Today I was going to whinge about the “band-aid” approach the Australian government is adopting to control binge drinking. They’ve decided to raise the tax on AlcoPops or RTD (Ready To Drink) beverages such as pre-mixed Bundy & Coke and UDL’s.

However, I’ve found something much more interesting, for me anyway. A debate is brewing over whether Australia will come out on top if climate change takes place. The country will be hotter and dryer, but it will also have more opportunities to adapt by using drought resistant grape varieties and genetically modified grapevines, and have the opportunity to move its grape growing operations to other parts of the country.

To me, the debate is just another case of academics, or bureaucrats, making assumptions and predictions based on numbers, and I would hazard a guess that they have haven’t even been to many of Australia’s grape growing regions, let alone potentially unexplored grape growing regions.

I spent a couple of years travelling the world in 06/07, and when talking to folks about Australia who have never been, there is the overwhelming perception that all of Australia is a desert. True, much of it is, but the country is huge, and there are vast areas of extremely productive agricultural land where no grapes have ever been grown. If you’ve even travelled between Albany and Esperance in Western Australia, you’ll understand what I mean, and similarly all along the east coast of Australia.

I grew up in Warragul, about 100 km east of Melbourne in the Gippsland region. Gippsland is 600 km long and 200km wide, and there are some awesome vineyards. Warragul is one of the wettest places in the country. I also lived in the South-West of WA for 6 years and water pours out of the ground all year round. The locals can’t understand the concept of a drought. There are huge areas of land available to plant grapes. My point is that even if Australia continues to get hotter and drier, there are many, many alternatives to plant vast areas of vineyards, that I would guess, will not lack water or sunshine, at least for the next few hundred years.

It’s true that many agricultural regions of Australia are struggling due to lack of water, but many of these areas were always on the edge, and a slight change in climate was always going to have a dramatic effect. Many agricultural sectors are not only struggling for the lack of water, but inflation has increased the cost of production so much that farmers can’t make a living. What is it going to take for city dwellers to realise that what they eat, day in day out, comes out of the ground? That’s a generalisation, I know, but it infuriates me that some people just don’t understand.

Let’s hope this debate doesn’t harm the perception or future of Australian wine globally.

About Jono Farrington

Jono Farrington
Jono Farrington holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Oenology) from the University of Adelaide (formely the Roseworthy Agricultural College). He also holds a Post Graduate Degree in Business Management from Monash University. He worked in the wine industry for nearly a decade, completing vintages in Australia and Bordeaux, before setting up an equestrian training centre.

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