With Australia increasingly experiencing high temperatures and low rainfall, the country’s wine producers are facing a huge challenge, with more and more pressure being placed on water resources. To help combat this and prepare for the future, researchers have been looking abroad for drought tolerant grape varieties in none other than Cyprus.

Among them is University of Adelaide PhD student Alexander Copper.

Mr Copper is specifically looking into two varieties: the white Xynisteri and red Maratheftiko, which have only just been released from Australian quarantine.

They are now being propagated at the university and will be placed in trials that will replicate those that are being undertaken in commercial Cypriot vineyards.

“These varieties are very drought tolerant in Cyprus,” Mr Copper explains, “often grown without any irrigation, and it is hoped they will be able to grow in Australian conditions with minimal to no irrigation.”

He highlights that popular grape varieties grown in Australia are generally French, grown in parts of France with high rainfall – but in Australia need irrigation to make up for the shortfall in rain.

While Australia does have some drought tolerant varieties from Spain, Italy and Portugal, the PhD students believes the Cypriot varieties will be even more drought tolerant.

“They have been cultivated for thousands of years in Cyprus, tolerating very hot, dry summers, surviving on winter rainfall alone, very similar to our climate here in South Australia.”

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As part of his project, Mr Copper has assessed local consumer response to the varieties, which so far has been positive.

“Considering the similar climates of Australia and Cyprus, these Cypriot grape varieties have potential as environmentally sustainable wines which will require less resources and help in the future adaptation of the wine industry to a changing climate,” said Associate Professor Cassandra Collins, one of Mr Copper’s supervisors.

Data from the trials in Cyprus is expected to be ready for publication in early 2020, and from the Australian trials in Autumn 2021.

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