Australia's Lower Hunter wine region has been on high alert since yesterday as bushfires spread within kilometres of the towns of Broke and Cessnock.

The Australian Daily Telegraph reports that firefighters are battling a huge fire front coming out of the Yengo National Park and threatening farmland west of Broke.

The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine-growing region, with wineries dating back to the 1860s. Such well-known names as Brokenwood, Tyrell’s, Mount Pleasant, Roxburgh and Lark Hill are all well-established Hunter wineries.

None are in danger at the moment, although ash and smoke are already coating the vines and owners fear that flames may be next.

Michael Hope of the Hope Estate Winery, northwest of Cessnock, told the Daily Telegraph the fire had crossed containment lines. ‘If the winds stay as they are, we are safe,’ he said, ‘but if the winds change direction then we have to evacuate.’

Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies3 January 2002