How Queensland wines are surviving climate change

An experiment at the heart of Queensland’s wine country could preserve the industry from a changing climate, turning away from well-known French varieties to other European drops.

Based on the Granite Belt, the Queensland College of Wine Tourism (QCWT) - a joint venture between the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and the State Government – is comparing 70 grape varieties to determine the best suited to new and future conditions.

This ‘Vineyard for the Future’ has already reaped rewards with big wins at the Queensland International Emerging Variety Wine Challenge in Brisbane earlier this year.

QWCT’s Banca Ridge Wines 2019 Fiano was awarded the Champion White Wine title, as well as Best Italian Style White. The Banca Ridge Wines 2019 Verdelho also won the Best Iberian White category.

Viticulturist Mike Hayes is President of the Queensland Wine Industry Association and a key USQ researcher for the ‘Vineyard for the Future’ at QCWT.

So far in 2020, he has already dealt with drought, fire and flood, and is determined to work with Mother Nature rather than against her.

“The severity of conditions has made us pause to consider how to shape our industry moving forward,” Mr Hayes said.

“We’re looking at factors such as lifting the fruiting wire up from the heat of the soil, changing the direction the vines are facing, and investigating drought tolerant rootstocks.

“Iberian and Italian varieties have been handling these warmer conditions for many years, and that’s why they are of such great interest to us.”

Such varieties include Vermentino, Albarino, Sangiovese, Verdelho, Gruner Veltliner and Nebbiolo.

Mr Hayes said QCWT was a pioneer in the emerging variety movement, and the Vineyard of the Future project was attracting international attention.

“Regional Queenslanders are innovative and adaptive. People are looking to the Granite Belt and how we are not just surviving but thriving.”

QCWT opened its doors ten years ago in Stanthorpe and has since provided secondary and tertiary training to students in viticulture, oenology, tourism, hospitality and business.

USQ’s Bachelor of Science (Wine Science) is also the only degree of its type in Northern Australia.

Man holding wine glass
Viticulturist Mike Hayes