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HOBART, Tasmania — The young Australian vintner Nick Glaetzer’s winemaking-steeped family thought he was crazy when he abandoned the Barossa Valley — the hot, dry region that is home to the country’s world-famous big, brassy shiraz.

Trampling over the family’s century-old grape-growing roots on the Australian mainland, Mr. Glaetzer headed south to the tiny island state of Tasmania to strike out on his own and prove to the naysayers there was a successful future in cooler-climate wines.

Just five years later, Mr. Glaetzer’s Glaetzer-Dixon Mon Pere Shiraz had won a major national award — the first time judges had handed the coveted trophy to a shiraz made south of the Bass Strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland.

Mr. Glaetzer’s gamble embodies a major shift in Australia’s wine-growing industry as it responds to climate change.


A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States found that as much as 73 percent of Australian land used for viticulture could become unsuitable by 2050.

As the country’s traditional wine-growing regions, including the Barossa, the Hunter Valley and Margaret River, grow ever hotter and drier, winemakers are rushing to Tasmania. Average summer temperatures there are about 38 percent cooler than in the Barossa.

Temperatures in Australia’s main wine regions are projected to increase between 0.3 and 1.7 degrees Celsius, or half a degree to 3 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2030, according to the Australian national science agency. The hotter temperatures would reduce grape quality 12 to 57 percent, the agency’s modeling shows. But in cooler Tasmania, warmer weather could be a benefit because current temperatures can get too chilly for some grape varieties.

Winemakers are so concerned about the impact of global warming on the industry — which is worth 5.7 billion Australian dollars, or nearly $5.4 billion — that they paid for a government-backed experiment in the Barossa vineyards to simulate the drier conditions expected in 30 to 50 years.

For wine lovers, the upshot is that Australia’s shiraz is already changing — Mr. Glaetzer’s version is 15 to 20 percent lower in alcohol content than its Barossa cousins — and could be unrecognizable in half a century.

“If the projections are right, a shiraz in the Barossa in 50 years’ time may well taste totally different to what it does at the moment,” said Michael McCarthy, the government scientist leading the Barossa experiment.

The flight south comes as Australia’s wine industry emerges from a disastrous few decades, blighted by a high Australian dollar and a grape glut that reduced exports.

Although the national wine industry has shrunk 1.9 percent annually from 2009 to 2014, the Tasmanian state industry is growing at a rate of close to 10 percent a year, according to the Tasmanian Climate Change Office.


“It’s one of the cooler areas in Australia to grow grapes, and if we are going to have climate change, you might as well start in a cooler climate,” said Cecil Camilleri, the manager of sustainable wine programs at Yalumba, the 165-year-old winemaking company that has snapped up three Tasmanian properties in the past 15 years.

Treasury Wine Estates, one of the world’s largest wine companies, purchased White Hills vineyard in Tasmania last year. The move was a geographical hedge as well as part of its strategy of owning or controlling vineyards that supply grapes suited to its luxury wine portfolio.

The company has sold its vineyards in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, citing its concern that the region will become “hot and dry and expensive.”

Barossa winemakers, meanwhile, are not sitting back waiting for their vines to wither.

Yalumba is enforcing a change in the irrigation technology used by its growers, from systems that water large areas to microsystems that target specific areas, ensuring each drop of water counts. It is also encouraging growers to graft wine varieties that have drought-resistant characteristics to rootstocks.

“There’s a lot of season-to-season adaptation happening right now, because climate change is happening now,” Mr. Camilleri said. “It’s happening incrementally and we are adapting incrementally.”

The government-backed “winter drought project,” throwing tarpaulins over rows of vines, is designed to simulate reduced rainfall of 15 to 20 percent that the region is projected to experience in 2030-50.

The experiment is investigating whether drip irrigation, which wets only a small portion of vine roots, will be enough to supplement natural rainfall, which wets the entire root.

Adding to vintners’ troubles, the rise in temperatures means a greater proportion of fruit is ripening in a shorter period, resulting in a compressed harvest period that is putting pressure on vineyard facilities and management.

Paul Petrie, national viticulturalist at Treasury Wine Estates, said his company was looking for ways to “put harvests back into a more reasonable time frame.”

Not everyone shares the concern. Australia’s Conservative-led coalition government is playing down the effect of climate change on Australian agriculture.

Since taking leadership of the country last September, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who in 2009 said the science behind climate change was “crap,” has abolished the independent Climate Commission, the body created by the former Labor government to provide public information on the effects of global warming.

Mr. Abbott has also introduced legislation into Parliament to eliminate Labor’s Climate Change Authority, which advises the government on emissions-reduction targets, and to repeal its tax on carbon pricing.

Mr. Abbott dismissed climate change as a factor when unveiling a 320-million-dollar short-term drought relief package for farmers this year: “If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150 years, there have always been good times and bad, tough and lush times. This is not a new thing in Australia.”

The Climate Commission had warned in its 2011 Critical Decade report that wine grapes and other temperature-and water-sensitive crops needed to adapt to climate change “or move to locations where growing conditions are more amenable to their production.”

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