At last some good news on SA wine from a UK pundit. Jancis Robinson MW OBE, boosting her latest book The World Atlas of Wine in the Financial Times last week, drops the throw-away line “some climatologists predict that South Africa, which has been producing wine for well over 300 years, will remain relatively unaffected by climate change.”
Like most observations on climate change, JR’s statement is a controversial one and flatly contradicted by Katherine Bunney, facilitator for the South African Climate Action Network. Bunney told News24 “global warming would see the Cape’s wine regions slowly shift hundreds of kilometres towards the Garden Route in the south-east and shrink as farmers move after wetter climes and switch to more resistant crops.”
Deputy director of climate change at the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs, Dennis Laidler, reckons temperatures could rise between two and five degrees Celsius by the end of the century, with the trend for the Western Cape, one of desertification.
A major UN report released in April predicted that Africa would suffer more than any other continent from the impact of climate change during the course of the century. In a story on the UN report, ominously titled “climate change horror for Cape Town”, News24 (www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2095422,00.html) concludes that South Africa’s two hottest and driest provinces, the Western Cape and the mostly rural Northern Cape, face the harshest impact. The two provinces that produce 99.99% of SA wine.
Some commentators would argue that climate change is already well underway. Alcohol levels in SA wines are up 10% in a decade, with riper, more robust styles the status quo today. Bunney’s prediction looks to be on the money as the Langkloof above Plettenberg Bay becomes a major source of grapes for wineries in the hotter and drier West.
For once, SA wine farmers will be hoping that Mrs. Robinson’s comments turn out to be more than just wishful thinking.