Jancis Robinson caught up in Australian bushfires

  • Wednesday 4 March 2009

British wine writer Jancis Robinson MW has told of how she was caught up in the bushfires that ravaged 30 Yarra Valley vineyards and destroyed, 5% of Victoria's total vineyard area.

In her weekly column for the Financial Times, Robinson recounts how she happened to be in Victoria on 7 February, known as Black Saturday, when 210 people died in the blazes and 7,000 were left homeless.

'I have never known more peculiar weather in a single day. At lunchtime strong, hot, dry winds blew in temperatures in the 40s from the desert to the north. All afternoon it was exceptionally hot', Robinson writes.

‘At around six the winds turned and started to blow cool air in from the Antarctic. But the damage had been done. The bush had dried to a tinderbox and needed only a spark to ignite it into a human and commercial tragedy.’

Robinson recalls a helicopter flight into the Yarra Valley:

'We hardly talked, silenced by the blackened paddocks and smouldering fires below, scattered at random in every direction.'

'All roads into the Yarra Valley were blocked by police cars guarding what they called "crime scenes", a grim reference to those who lost their lives in the fire.'

The effects of the bushfires on the Victorian wine industry have been severe. The Yarra Valley region lost more than 150 hectares to the fires, and three wineries – Roundstone, Yarra Yarra and Calders were destroyed in the blaze.

Yarra Valley's grape harvest is expected to yield 50% less than in 2008.

Read the full account on http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/2f30f2d6-045c-11de-845b-000077b07658.html

Look out for a report from Steve Webber, winemaker for De Bortoli, in the May issue of Decanter.

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