Re­gion could sparkle as top wine pro­ducer

Western Daily Press - - News - TONY WHIT­FIELD news@west­erndai­ly­ The study was pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Land Use Science.

DORSET, Devon and Corn­wall could soon be home to Bri­tish fizz that could ri­val cham­pagne, ac­cord­ing to aca­demics.

Sci­en­tists say the coun­ties have the ideal con­di­tions to pro­duce con­sis­tent quality wines to beat the French at their own game.

Other po­ten­tial wine-grow­ing hotspots in­clude Es­sex, Suf­folk, Hamp­shire, the Isle of Wight, Nor­folk, Lin­colnshire and the Vale of Glam­or­gan.

Cli­mate and viti­cul­ture ex­perts from the Univer­sity of East An­glia iden­ti­fied the ar­eas of the UK that could ri­val the Cham­pagne re­gion of France be­cause of cli­mate change.

They iden­ti­fied nearly 35,000 hectares of prime viti­cul­tural land for new and ex­pand­ing vine­yards.

Prof Steve Dor­ling, of UEA’s School of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences, said: “English and Welsh vine­yards are boom­ing, and their wine is win­ning in­ter­na­tional ac­claim.

“This sum­mer’s heat­wave has led to a record grape har­vest and a vin- tage year for English and Welsh wine, prompt­ing great in­ter­est in in­vest­ment and land op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“But de­spite a trend of warm­ing grape-grow­ing sea­sons, this sea­son has been quite un­usual in terms of weather.

“English and Welsh grape yields are gen­er­ally quite low and vari­able by in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, so we wanted to iden­tify the best places to plant vine­yards and im­prove the sec­tor’s re­silience to the UK’s of­ten fickle weather.”

The re­search team, with help from wine pro­duc­ers, used new geo­graph­i­cal anal­y­sis tech­niques to as­sess and grade every 50sq m plot of land in Eng­land and Wales for suit­abil­ity.

The vine­yard hec­tarage has in­creased 246 per cent, from 722 to 2,500ha, since 2004, when sparkling wine be­gan to dom­i­nate pro­duc­tion.

The boom in English and Welsh wines has been due in part to cli­mate change, which has re­sulted in the warm­ing of the grow­ing sea­son from April to Oc­to­ber.

How­ever, the UK is lo­cated be­tween the mid-lat­i­tude westerly wind belt on the edge of the At­lantic Ocean and the in­flu­ences of main­land Europe and is there­fore sen­si­tive to mi­nor changes in the posi- tion­ing of ma­jor at­mo­spheric pressure sys­tems. This can af­fect yields.

So the study set out to look at re­gional and mi­cro cli­mates that could af­fect pro­duc­tion to iden­tity the ideal places for new vine­yards.

It looked at el­e­va­tion, as­pect, slope an­gle, land cover, soil char­ac­ter­is­tics, along with tem­per­a­tures, spring frosts, rain­fall, sunshine and so­lar ra­di­a­tion to cre­ate com­puter mod­els.

Based on ter­rain alone, the study iden­ti­fied Dorset, Devon and Corn­wall. But when cli­mate was taken into ac­count it iden­ti­fied Kent, Sus­sex, Es­sex and Suf­folk as the best re­gions to start new vine­yards.

Ap­ply­ing the model to ex­ist­ing vine­yards in Eng­land and Wales, the sub-op­ti­mal po­si­tion­ing of most vine­yards was found in re­la­tion to grow­ing sea­son tem­per­a­ture – only 10 per cent of vine­yards were cur­rently lo­cated in ar­eas with high­est GST val­ues – sunshine hours, April and May air frosts, and rain­fall (sea­son­ally and in June).

Lead au­thor, Dr Alis­tair Nes­bitt, said: “The tech­niques we used en­abled us to iden­tify ar­eas ripe for fu­ture vine­yard in­vest­ments, but they also showed that many ex­ist­ing vine­yards are not that well lo­cated, so there is def­i­nitely room for improve­ment and we hope our model can help boost fu­ture pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“En­ter­ing into viti­cul­ture and wine pro­duc­tion in Eng­land and Wales isn’t for the faint-hearted – the in­vest­ment re­quired is high and risks are sig­nif­i­cant.

“But as cli­mate change drives warmer grow­ing sea­son tem­per­a­tures in Eng­land and Wales, this new viti­cul­ture suit­abil­ity model al­lows, for the first time, an ob­jec­tive and in­formed rapid assess­ment of land at lo­cal, re­gional and na­tional scales.”

A vine­yard in the Cham­pagne re­gion of France

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