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Australian fires damage vineyards, but industry calls for context

Several vineyards have suffered ‘devastating damage’ alongside wider communities from the deadly wildfires, said Wine Australia, but it cautioned that around 1% of national vineyard land was in the fire zones.

A number of wineries and vineyard owners across parts of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were believed to have suffered serious damage from bushfires that may take years to recover from, Wine Australia said this week.

Adelaide Hills was believed to be one of the worst-hit wine areas.

Full damage assessments have not yet been possible, in some cases because it was still not safe for people to return to vineyards, and Wine Australia warned that a full picture would take time to assemble.

Its comments provided another example of how bushfires have affected communities.

However, the wine industry has naturally not been a major focus amid a series of fierce fires that have killed 27 people nationally since September, destroyed homes, caused mass evacuations – particularly in New South Wales and Victoria – and may have killed as many as one billion animals, according to an estimate by professor Chris Dickman, from the University of Sydney.

For now, Wine Australia has sought to provide context on the situation for vineyards and their customers.

It said that around 1% of the country’s vineyard land was located in fire zones and it confirmed that not all of that land has been damaged.

‘We are confident that as of 6 January 2020 less than 1% of Australian vineyards were potentially impacted,’ a spokesperson told Decanter.com.

This percentage could be higher in some areas. Around 30% of vineyards in Adelaide Hills had been caught up in the fire zone, according to the wine region’s executive officer, Kerry Treuel.

However, fires hit properties sporadically rather than universally and damage assessments were ongoing.

‘Unfortunately some vineyards are completely burnt but there other areas where vines are still intact with no signs of fire damage,’ Treuel said.

‘The fire moved quickly and sporadically throughout the region, jumping roads, vineyards and properties,’ she said

‘So, while the fire scar is spread across a vast area, the emergency services and local volunteers and growers themselves did a truly amazing job to limit its impact to certain areas. It’s important to note that there was minimal to no smoke in the region over the days following.’

Wine Australia’s chief executive, Andreas Clark, said that assessing damage was complex and would take time.

‘It is easy to see when vines are burned but often it takes much longer to establish the damage caused by heat.’

He added, ‘What we have seen in the past and no doubt will again in the future is an astonishing generosity where people have donated grapes and labour to assist their neighbours and friends to recover.’

Wine Australia said it was working with Australian Grape & Wine, plus the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), government bodies and local agencies to co-ordinate both a short-term response and a ‘longer-term action plan’.

Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine, said immediate support for growers would need to be backed up by a campaign to bring back tourism over the medium-term.

‘We need donations to the relief funds, support for our emergency services, and consumers to buy our wine and visit our regions,’ he said.

In the UK, several high-profile London restaurants have created events to raise funds for communities affected by the fires.

Wine Australia said that donations could be made to the Australian Red Cross, as well as individual regions, and to also show support by buying Australian wines.


See also: 

Sonoma wineries in California fight fire perceptions as well as risk


 

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