Jan 22, 2020
Rebuilding Australia’s wine industry after the bushfires
The Australian bushfires that have raged across the country since September of last year have had a devastating impact on those living and working in affected areas. Included in this are winemakers and winery owners, with wine regions in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria all experiencing damage.
South Australia’s Adelaide Hills was hit the hardest after a suspected downed powerline caught fire on December 20 when temperatures reached 43.9 degrees. This fire rapidly enveloped between 2,718 and 2,965 acres of the region’s vineyards, destroying around 30% of Adelaide Hills’ production and impacting more than 60 growers and producers in the region. Helicopter footage of the region shows the extent of the devastation. Dozens of homes and buildings have been lost and there is speculation that the overall damage bill could reach $200 million.
Amongst this turmoil however, the Australian wine community has banded together in this time of need according to Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark. “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,” he said.
As growers and producers begin attempts to salvage badly damaged vines, hundreds of volunteers have come on board to offer a helping hand through intensive pruning and re-establishing irrigation lines to direct water back to the scorched earth. Many growers are also banding together to share their knowledge to aid in this recovery process, showing inspiring community spirit and support.
The full extent of the damage to vineyards across the country won’t be fully realised for several weeks, however Wine Australia, Australian Grape and Wine, the Australian Wine Research Institute and viticultural experts - backed by the Federal Government and state and regional wine agencies – are already coordinating a response to offer support and advice in the short and long terms.
This will likely include relief for wineries who have been directly affected, having lost hectares of land or equipment, or will be unable to sell smoke-affected grapes. A medium-term objective is to strengthen Australia’s wine tourism once again, which will be adversely impacted by the fires.
“Our message is that Australia is hurting from the fires, but we are open for business”, Australian Grape and Wine Chief Executive Tony Battaglene said in a statement. “We need donations to the relief funds, support for our emergency services and consumers to buy our wine and visit our regions.”
The message being promoted is that as soon as it is safe to do so, tourists are encouraged to visit the affected wine regions once again, as it is this level of support that will assist wineries and grape growers in getting back on their feet.
While the initial outlook appears grim, the winery industry is indeed a resilient one and bolstered by the support from industry bodies, government funding and donations, there is hopes the community will rebuild stronger than ever.