Climate change could alter flavour of Marlborough Sauvignon blanc, NZ's most exported wine

The big heat and the growing effects of climate change are ramping up concerns in our best-known wine region.

Marlborough's two main rivers are now too low to take water from, affecting more than fifty consent holders.

Nautilus Estate has switched over to its storage pond after the irrigation system that waters the vine was turned off.

A scenario likely to be repeated more often for the region.

"What we've seen over past couple of years is reflection of what’s to come in terms of evolving climate. It's expected we'll see more hot days across NZ that includes the wine regions - Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, Central Otago," NIWA principal scientist Chris Brandolino told 1 NEWS.

"We're going to see more rainfall in the wet season and less in the dry season, so more rainfall when it's not needed for the winegrower sand, less when it is needed."

A lack or water or too much heat could change the flavour of New Zealand's most exported wine variety, Sauvignon blanc.

Its future was discussed at the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration conference held this week in Marlborough.

"If you get a vine, particularly a Sauvignon blanc vine that gets stressed, then the flavours in the berry don't end up being as intense and refreshing," master of wine Steve Smith told 1 NEWS.

"If it gets warmer, then it will get a little riper, so the characteristic grassy character of Marlborough sav may not be as intense and that might be replaced with more citrus and nectarine."

Other varieties of wine may thrive in the changing conditions.

"If it got warmer and slightly wetter in Marlborough, a variety such as Albarino from the north east of Spain, northwest of Spain, could well be part of the vineyard scene in Marlborough," Mr Smith said.

"Certainly we've had great response to our Albarino in our cellar door," Nautilus Estate chief wine maker Clive Jones said.

The wine company is even experimenting with its water consumption.

"Last season we got through a season without watering at all on a particular vineyard," Mr Jones said.

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    With low river levels some vintners have been forced to tap into emergency water supplies. Source: 1 NEWS