Wine research from the UEA explores impact of climate on vine growing

Bumper early grape harvest at Winbirri Vineyard at Surlingham. Photo: Bill Smith

Bumper early grape harvest at Winbirri Vineyard at Surlingham. Photo: Bill Smith

The growing UK wine industry may have benefited from climate change.

Lee Dyer at Winbirri Vineyard in Surlingham Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Lee Dyer at Winbirri Vineyard in Surlingham Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

But new UEA research has found that unpredictable weather, such as cold snaps, sharp frosts and downpours, threatens productivity for vine growers.

Academics studied the UK's main grape-growing regions and looked at the relationships between temperature, rainfall, extreme weather and yield.

They also surveyed wine producers for their views on the role of climate change in the success of English wine.

By combining this data, they were able to identify opportunities and threats to the industry for the first time.


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Lead researcher Alistair Nesbitt, from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said the UK had been warming faster than the global average since 1960 and eight of the warmest years in the last century have occurred since 2002.

'Our findings identify threats to the industry as well as opportunities,' he said. 'While rising average temperatures are important, the impact of short term weather events such as cold snaps, sharp frosts, and downpours will continue to threaten productivity.'

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Lee Dyer, 38, is owner and head wine maker at Winbirri Vineyard in Surlingham, near Norwich.

He said warmer temperatures made a 'slight difference' to the industry, but most improvements came from better knowledge and technology. It was possible to avoid most frost problems if the right location was chosen, and using cooler climate grape varieties like Bacchus made temperature less of an issue.

'In East Anglia we get more hours of sunshine and fewer hours of rainfall per year, which really helps the ripening process,' he added.

The vineyard has just started to supply Marks & Spencer and expects to produce 50,000 to 80,000 bottles per year once its vines are fully established.

Over the last decade there has been a boom in English wine production.

The amount of land used for viticulture – vine growing – has increased by 148pc with around 1,884 hectares, the equivalent of 2,638 football pitches, currently devoted to the industry.

'Climate and weather impacts on UK viticulture' is published today.

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