Jul 25 2017

Nature against Man: Australia Could be the Winner

A Case To Fear And Dread As It Happened

Just this month I had the the lucky chance  to hear professsor Kim Anderson from the Adelaide University giving a talk at the SACUNE’s yearly meeting and dinner for 2007.

Professor Kim Anderson is a well read author and recognised worldwide expert, for his vision and the very important roles and high status positions and distinctions including an OA. To see some of his published works, including free downloads please  Read on….

The professor, as an expert on Agriculture, Oenology, and I believe a wine grower himself, top statistician and world economist, in his speech he mentioned that has been five main periods in Australia that help describe viticulture and wine production in this country. He also goes on to say that two of the main reasons for Australia’s success to the spread of vineyards was due to two main factors.

  1. The migration coming into the country;
  2. General  improvements to peoples incomes across the world.

For instances he stated that Australia first gained a better position in the world of exports of wine, after the Gallipoli’s war ended; when Australian soldiers returned home and wine landscape started to take root in Australia, so to speak. A lot of vineyards started to be planted as the conditions seemed ripe or appropriate due to the fact that there was demand for wines at home and overseas.

Adding that, England started to favour Australian wines, importing them before others, as  way to say tanks to the Australian’s support of England in the war; as a result of this, Australian wine exports reached a 10% share in term of their exports to the world for the first time.

One point the professor also mentioned and stayed in my mind is that among these distinct periods of Australian wine production and success, the times of trials and failures were even greater or lasted for longer periods over the years. Unfavourable government legislation the fluctuation of the Australian dollar, changes in people’s tastes for beverages including wine were other given reasons for the decline in sales.

He also wrote: ”The poor export performance to the late 1870s was not without some highlights though. After the International Exhibition in Vienna in 1873, the Morning Post of 8 June 1874 proclaimed:
‘Australia promises ere long to become as celebrated for its wines as it is already for its wool
and gold [and] the scope for further increase is almost unlimited.’ Similar accolades flowed from the International Exhibition of 1882 in Bordeaux. And of course all this is well described in detail in his free to download publication: Growth and Cycles in Australia

One of the great Australian vignerons that won a gold medal for his prestigious Australian wines, at the International Wine Shows  in Bordeaux in 1882, was no other than Thomas Hardy; the pioneer of the Hardy’s Wines a Co. established in 1853. Accordingly to their website not only Thomas Hardy won a gold medal at the International Wine Shows  in Bordeaux but he won another  gold medal seven years later in Paris.

What is interesting to see is that nowadays they’re still on top of the competition. It is obvious as the Co. doesn’t seem to have enough production to supply the market with their top brands. Going through their list of wines averaging $70 plus a bottle on their website and… they basically have sold out.

This brings me to question if Australian viticulturists and other land producers are really aware and prepared for covering the gap in what has been a  curb in European production of quality wines and other crops.

Needless to say that too be prepared it should include having their website translated in the language or languages of the country, that they wish to do business with by marketing their products and/or services with localised language in mind. Gone are the days that everyone could do business in one single language or their mother tongue. Google translate isn’t the life saviour in the Business World and in all circumstances. From Google and other Machine Translation tools we get the gist and a bit more but certainly not the solution.

This Is What is Happening in 2017 to Viticulture Across Europe and in England

Harvest in major vineyards in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England and other countries has been once again compromised as these have been ravaged by black frosts towards the end of April.

All across Europe winter was warm and kind; towards April vegetative growth had just started and was then developing and flourishing ahead of time. Everything was sprouting and there were rich beautiful  buds and flowers in the vines and trees and other crops benefit from this.

Spring growth was advanced, had arrived earlier, everyone was happy. The man on the land was very happy too as everything pointed to a good earlier harvest. Or so everyone thought.

Unexpectedly and unusual for the month of April, Europe was struck by a mass of cold air, coming across from the Arctic Ocean, that combined with black frosts, cold winds and very negative temperatures, not seen happening in Europe for many years.

The latest ravages suffered by mankind on the land across Europe are real and to be feared; to put it in a rhyme, words of a French producer speaking of how he saw it, froid=l’effroi. Cold=Fear.

Particularly if this is associated to negative below zero temperatures and as much as – 5 to – 6 degrees centigrade and one feels lost and hopeless as what to do in order to save the future harvest.

Where To From Here: Nature against Man

Good and bad weather conditions can make or break people and businesses on the land.

There are many constraints and enemies to farmers and land producers and challenges they have to face in their life time, 24/365.

Nowadays we dispose and we are served by very advanced and sophisticated technology to forecast and combat the weather conditions ahead of time.

Forecasting the weather patterns and storms is something that is done every day. Though there are no assurances that these will be accurately predicted and, in case of severe cases, we can’t always be ready for them. Only Nature can dictate in advance what is going to happen, in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

Making quickly, fast decisions ahead of time is part and parcel of running any business; more critical and of great importance in the case of land agriculturalists horticulturalists and other producers, working and living on and from the land.

Deciding and reacting to these natural events quickly and in appropriate time is of most importance.

Anyone who has lived in a farm, either as a child or an adult, knows how hard life in the land can be. No matter what, there will be challenges; some expected some not.

One of the biggest problems for viticulturists and other land producers is forecasting the weather with certainty; they’ll continuously face these challenges of not knowing what is ahead, during the various seasons in the year. Every step of the way they are dealing with assumptions and presumptions and taking chances and risks in their decision making.

When unexpected, very low and/or very high temperatures, stormy weather, snow, hail, wind, arrives, it brings with it quite often some sort of bad result. Losses in crop yields, great economical concerns even complete destruction of farmland producers and their businesses.

No more can this be seen and with frightening results than what has been happening recently to viticulturists and fruit crops growers in Europe.

The Odd Season: A Blessing that Can Cause Havoc

Just last April, towards the end of the month, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and England experienced the worse results to their crop production not seen for many years.

Firstly the nice weather arrives by the approach of an unusual mild and warm winter. This made trees, vines and all vegetation to flower and set bud earlier; all ahead of their normal cycle and time, or three to four weeks earlier.

A lucky occurrence that made the news across the world.

Unusual and unnatural no doubt, however at first not showing any risks to the man on the land to a certain extent was ignored.

A warm winter meant perhaps with good reason, that they had been blessed with an earlier Spring and possible an earlier harvest in 2017.

Then came Spring and the expected weather became the unexpected once again.

A warm winter had given farmers hoping signs and joy for an earlier crop yield in the year; then around the corner with a vengeance and without a warning came the bad weather. Heavy frost, strong cold Arctic winds and as a result temperatures fell below zero.

In some countries, like France, Spain, England and Italy temperatures lowered to even below minus six degrees.

Extreme low temperatures – 6 degrees  C, that in fact will burn and kill any young sprouting and vegetation germination as the cold comes into contact with these.

The worse that could happen did happen.

Now those trees that were flowering and sprouting, and vines full of buds booming and blooming, almost overnight this young growth disappeared from sight.

In its place blocks of ice reducing them to cinders.

France : Earlier Estimation’s Losses

Bordeaux vineyards in southwest France could lose about half of their harvest this year after two nights of frost damaged their crop at the end of April.

”Wines from the Cognac, Bergerac and Lot-et-Garonne regions were also affected,” Bernard Farges, head of the Syndicat des vins Bordeaux et Bordeaux Superieur, told Reuters on Saturday.

“For Bordeaux wines … we estimate the impact will be a loss of about 50 per cent, depending on how secondary buds could regrow,” he said.

Including lost earnings by wine industry subcontractor, the total damage is estimated at one to two billion euros ($A1.5 billion-$A3 billion), with wine production set to fall by about 350 million bottles.

Frost damage varied widely depending on the precise area, with some owners expected to lose only 15 to 30 per cent of their grape harvest but others at risk of seeing their entire production wiped out.

Growers have resorted to using candles, heaters and even the down-draught from helicopters to try to save crops.

Saint-Emilionnais, Médoc, Pessac-Léognan ou Entre-deux-Mers, Côtes de Bourg et Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux all the vineyards situated in these areas were seriously affected by black frosts and temperatures – 4 ° C.

These lower very negative temperatures late, April 2007, compare in terms of damages to these last seen in 1991.

The French have also suffered enormous losses in the areas of Cognac. Estimates of damages to this region go as high as 25 000 ha equal to 1/3 of entire area affected by black frosts.

The same in the Gironde region the largest area of AOC vineyards in France,

From Médoc to Pomerol, a real catastrophy for some viticultors that will not have an income this year; and in terms of general costs of production for these areas it is something that most refrein to comment.

Accordingly to some of these viticultors in  these areas that came forward,  they stress that 20 to 100 % of the harvest has been lost.

Production could go very low per ha with some estimators putting it at a low 10 to 15 hectolitres instead of the average 45 hl per ha  https://www.pressreader.com/similar/281891593181454

These are not very good news for French viticulture, fruit growing and other perennial tender crops. ”Après le froid” = l’effroi; in English: ”After the cold, the fear” sets in. Fear and painful memories  as the man on the land hadn’t seen low climatic conditions like that, for such a long time.

The situation in European vineyards is grim and hopeless to many. France’s total wine output already fell by 10 percent last year, also due to adverse weather conditions.

Champagne was the worst hit, with the harvest down by more than 20 per cent on the previous year, due to similar spring frosts followed by other problems such as a spread of mildew on a large scale across many of these vineyards in this region.

Some viticulturists  were seriously affected by – 4 ° C also last year loosing in some cases as much as 80 % of their production.

This is the case of vigneron Patrice Boulanger that lost 80 % of his muscadet wines  production in 2016 and now again 100 % in 2017. Because these viticulturist wouldn’t expect this kind of phenomena to have happened 2  years in a row, most didn’t bother with insurance; these previously insured against frost, hail inclement weather etc, had even decided to cancel their policies; above all they couldn’t afford to pay for these extra costs, due to their previous harvest losses.

The same problem happened in areas  of  Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne, with damages extending to viticulturist and farmers in general.

Although not as badly as in other lower areas affected, germination  production of vines affected a dozen of viticulturists at various levels of intensity.

In the Landes Areas, it is estimated that 100 hectares of vineyards were affected in Tursan, Chalosse and  in the  Lower-Armagnac areas.

Orchard fruit areas in Normandie, Mayenne and  Sarthe will have its production reduced as well; where apples and pears are grown in grand quantities were equally reached and affected 25 % to 30 %   by negative temperatures.

These got to be problems of great proportion to wine consumers as well. Prices are already rising fast in Europe. At least by 20% and the average price for a top DOP wine, according to vitisphere.com can be as high as 13,000 Euro. More about this in my next Post.

 

Do you see any future advantages/disadvantages for Australia in all this that is happening to the European Wine Industry?

Do you have any plans to sell/supply wine other goods to overseas Markets? Like to discuss your plans with us? We would love to help.

 

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