Wine and Climate Change in Australia – Journalist Michael Brissenden Just Makes Stuff-Up

MICHAEL Brissenden, considered one of Australia’s most experienced journalists, failed on so many counts with the Four Corners documentary ‘Weather Alert’.

Michael Brissenden is an experienced Australian journalist, this picture is from his biography page at the ABC website.

He suggested that wine grower’s Brown Brothers are relocating at least part of their business to Tasmania because it is too hot in Victoria, which is untrue. He also failed to explain to the public that climate change can be natural, and for as long as humanity has been growing wine grapes harvest dates have changed. He also failed to provide balance by getting some expert perspective of the extent of recent climate change and its likely effect on wine growing.

When the ABC ran its Four Corners program on climate change some weeks back, it had as its theme: that farmers, small businesses, government planners and major corporations have stopped waiting for politicians to decide whether climate change is real. They’re acting now.

One of the more compelling examples provided was that well-known Australian wine producer Brown Brothers was moving part of its operations to Tasmania – to a cooler climate. That is what journalist Brissenden said:

“But that’s not all – the company has now also decided to move part of its operation to cooler country.”

The inference was clear. It has become so hot on mainland Australia, due to catastrophic climate change, that this business was having to act in quite a dramatic way by relocating.

But company representative, Ross Brown, never actually said this. Correspondence* has since established that it’s actually business as usual for Brown Brothers.

“At this stage we don’t intend on selling any vineyards in Victoria. We have always had the philosophy that we grow the right varietals in the most suited climate so we have an incredible team who ensure we are planning the right grapes in the right locations.”

On camera Mr Brown did go on somewhat about how the grape harvests now are getting shorter and earlier because temperatures are rising.

It is well known that temperature is central to all aspects of viticulture (grape growing and harvest), and that records of changing harvest dates have long provided an indication of local climate change. For example, the number of days from 1 September for the wine harvest in Bordeaux, France, has long been an estimate of climate change in Western Europe. As the start date pushed into October from the late 1400s so Europe entered a period known as the Little Ice Age, which followed the Medieval Warm Period. By 1850 – the beginning of the current warm cycle – the average dates of starting vintage were back in September.

There have always been cycles of warming, followed by cooling. For the ABC to really have a story about grape growing and climate change, Brissenden would need to establish the extent to which the current warming cycle is outside the realm of what might be expected from natural climate change. But he didn’t.

Consistent with the ABC’s misguided editorial policy, natural climate change was not even mentioned in ‘Weather Alert’.

I recently published on temperature change in Southeast Australia – the region where Brown Brothers grow wine. It is chapter 5 in the book Evidence-based climate science by scientific publishers Elsevier. In the chapter, entitled Southeast Australian maximum temperature trends, 1887- 2013: an evidence-based reappraisal, I conclude – from a weighted mean of the five highest quality maximum temperature time series for southeast Australia – that the 0.3 degrees Celsius warming since 1887 is well within what might be expected from natural climate change.

Figure 1. These time series lines are derived from data also published in Chapter 5, of the book Evidence-based Climate Science. They show that rural locations, cities and lighthouses have somewhat different temperature trends. Even the most pronounced warming, evident from the cities of Hobart and Melbourne, is within what could be considered natural – though the trends shown here are likely to be artificially exaggerated by the method of measuring temperature since 1996** (electronic probes) and the urban heat island (UHI) effect.

Mr Brissenden might have also mentioned a new book on the fascinating subject of wine and climate – a book written by an agricultural scientist focused on Australian wine. Wine Terroir and Climate Change by John Gladstones (Wakefield Press 2015) concludes that viticulture in Australia is not threatened by global warming, and that much of the computer modelling that underpins the climate change hype is wrong.

If Mr Brissenden was really interested in temperature change and wine growing, and if Four Corners really was about investigative journalism, it would have interviewed Dr Gladstone. But they didn’t.

The documentary was more a propaganda piece – and altogether consistent with ABC editorial policy on the topic of climate change.


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This article was offered to various mainstream Australian media outlets, they all passed on it. But The Spectator Australia has been brave enough to republish, ’tis here: .

* The correspondence with Brown Brothers was initiated by Bob Fernley-Jones, a Melbourne-based retired mechanical engineer. This blog post details just one of many errors of fact in the Weather Alert documentary identified and documented by Mr Fernley-Jones, which he has included in a series of formal submissions addressed to the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs. Mr Fernley-Jones was recently advised that the ABC have exercised their discretion not to investigate any of his submissions.

** In a previous blog post I have detailed the extent to which recent warming trends are likely to be exaggerated by the change from mercury thermometers to electronic probes – this is also something that could and should have been investigate by Mr Brissenden.

8 Responses to Wine and Climate Change in Australia – Journalist Michael Brissenden Just Makes Stuff-Up

  1. John Nicol April 26, 2018 at 10:30 pm #

    This is a good article and I hope it will be part of a continued series of similar articles which set out the gross “errors” – in fact down-right dishonesty, .promulgatd by Michael Brissendon and the ABC in its Four Corners Programme.

    How these people can sleep at night without their consciences keeping them awake until the wee small hours, is more than I can understand.,

  2. Rayvic April 27, 2018 at 3:28 pm #

    “MICHAEL Brissenden, considered one of Australia’s most experienced journalists, failed on so many counts with the Four Corners documentary ‘Weather Alert’. ”

    May I suggest that the hyphenated word, ‘Green-Left-biased’, be inserted after ‘experienced’.

  3. Mick In The Hills April 28, 2018 at 8:38 am #

    It’s been an unremarkable summer in Vic, so what better way to keep the climate carpetbagging capers going than to put out a story about farming being cactus.
    Amusing if we taxpayers weren’t picking up the bill for ABC shenanigans.

  4. Peter C April 30, 2018 at 9:41 am #

    Excellent Jennifer.

    Why should the ABC have a discretion “not to investigate” their own egregious errors?

  5. Steve Niemiec April 30, 2018 at 8:19 pm #

    Facts and the truth are the first casualties of modern journalism warfare. Long term investigative enquiry no longer starts with a hunch, but a hypothesis which ‘will’ be proven.

    With hundreds of TV stations and other outlets to feed, programmes need to be put together at speed and as long as they conform to the broadcasters own agenda then truth just gets in the way.

    So many of today’s factual TV investigations are carefully crafted propaganda packages designed to provide a gentle brainwashing effect. Each one not appearing to do much harm, but over time they are replacing quality journalism with targeted subliminal messages. The makers of WALL-E understood exactly where we are heading.

    “It must be true, it’s a XYZ Corp programme, why would they lie” – why indeed?

    There was a wonderful news snippet the other day suggesting the next generation will not know how to cook and they will all be eating ready meals. Full of sugar, salt and so many other selected additives. ‘Ready TV’, full of artificial ingredients is already here!

  6. Geoffrey Williams May 1, 2018 at 7:34 pm #

    Michael Brissenden is a disappointment as a journalist, as he has shown in the past. He is just a mindless pawn to his ABC masters and their climate change idiocy. If he only had the guts to carry out some proper and unbiased reporting on the subject of ‘wine and climate change in Australia’ he would earn some respect from all of us. As it is he is a failure.
    Jennifer is quite correct to take him to task over this matter.

  7. spangled drongo May 2, 2018 at 2:34 pm #

    The first vines were planted in 1788 by Bligh from the Bounty at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island, and the explorer George Bass noted the potential for wine growing in the Derwent Valley in 1798.

    Cool climate wines in the past were never as popular as they are today plus Brown Brothers had experienced 10 years of severe drought in Victoria and it was affecting their cool climate wines.

    So they made the obvious business choice.

    Likewise in NZ, because of the rising popularity of cool climate wines, producers have moved to the south island.

    But when it fits the AGW mantra so well, Auntie and her groupthinkers couldn’t possibly pass it up.

  8. Charles May 17, 2018 at 10:15 am #

    Brown Brothers were trying to grow cool climate wines in an area that is not really a cool climate area (Central VIC). Obviously after years of being flogged for quality for their cool climate products by producers in true cool climate areas, they decided to move that part of their operation to Tassie.

    Brown Brothers are well known alarmists and an ABC favourite, like most of that ilk truth-telling is not a core part of their business.

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