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Climate change threatens to wreak havoc on Australian harvest

Published:  15 January, 2016

A range of extreme weather events are making Australia's winemakers fearful for the 2016 harvest, which is due to start in around six weeks, global news agency Reuters is reporting.

In the Hunter Valley vineyards are reeling from massive rainfall, with 7.9 inches of rain in the last week alone, which is double the average rainfall for the month.

Neil McGuigan, chief executive of Australian Vintage, told Reuters: "We've had one of the biggest downpours we have had in a long time.

"We are on the edge, if we get more rain, we will start to develop disease and as soon as that happens, you will not be able to harvest the fruit."

In Western Australia, it is wildfires that threatening production.

One Waroona vineyard was lost to fire last week, and winemakers are concerned about smoke taint contaminating the taste of this year's grapes.

Temperatures in Australia's key wine-producing regions are predicted to rise by up to 1.7 degrees Celsius by 2013, with the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall also expected to grow.

Last year's vintage was high on quality, although yields were low. Some red grape vineyards reported yields down by as much as 60%.

Yields are again predicted to be low this year.

The UK is Australia's largest export market for wine by volume, and second largest by value to the US.

Global exports grew in 2014 for the first time since 2007, up 1.9% to some £870 million and 700 million litres.

Premium wines performed particularly strongly, with wines in the AU$10 and above price band up by 15%.

Some 90% of Australia's ultra-premium wines at AU$50 went to Asia, with sales in the price bracket growing by 55%.

Australia currently exports to 121 countries worldwide.