The current bushfire crisis in Australia needs no introduction.
From GoFundMe pages, donations from prominent individuals across the world and even our own Boss Hunting Bushfire Relief Raffle – the calls for support have been sounded far and wide.
It’s been widely publicised that the effects of these fires will linger for months, long after their prominence has faded away from the headlines. For some, however, particularly those in the Australian wine industry, the impact of this season’s devastation will linger for years.
In the two weeks over the holiday period, roughly a third of vineyards in the Adelaide Hills region were caught up in the fire zone, according to the wine region’s executive officer, Kerry Treuel.
Of the 3,300 hectares of vineyards, around 1,100 hectares went up in flames.
For James Tilbrook of Tilbrook Estate, his worst fears were realised after returning to his property following an evacuation on December 20.
Tilbrook Estate was all but destroyed in the lead up to Christmas. But Tilbrook hasn’t just lost this year’s crop — he’s also lost next year’s. The vineyard will be unlikely to bear fruit until 2022 at the very earliest.
This blaze, known as the Cudlee Creek fire in the Adelaide Hills, has so far directly, or indirectly, affected 63 growers. It tore through Henschke’s Lenswood vineyard, destroying 90% of the vines and causing over $1.5 million in damages to the site and equipment.
Producers don’t just face the direct impact of the blazes but also smoke damage, or so-called “smoke taint”. Bushfire smoke can permeate the skin of the grapes as they ripen, causing the subsequent wine to have an unpleasant smoky taste.
Essentially, flames don’t even have to touch the vineyards for bushfires to write off an entire season’s worth of production.
Over in NSW, the winemaking region of Tumbarumba, south-west of Canberra in the lower Snowy Mountains region, has also been torched. A particularly intense flare-up tore through wineries on New Year’s Eve, causing notable damage to both Obsession Wines and family-owned Johansen Wines.
Courabyra Wines has also experienced some damage to vines, however, the cellar door, sheds and main house remain standing.
The winery thanked members of the public for their messages of support in a post on social media, and particularly customers who placed wine orders to help fund repairs.
Angus Barnes, executive officer of the New South Wales Wine Industry Association, has encouraged those that wish to help those affected to buy bottles of New South Wales wines and consider visiting the regions to boost tourism.
Vice-chair of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region industry association, Jared Stringer, told The Guardian that the region lost $20 million worth of wine, which translates to roughly 794,000 cases.
So how can the average Australian do their part?
Buy wine – and lots of it. For many growers, this will be an essential form of income in an already trying few months (and years) ahead.
The number of vineyards affected is still being determined, but so far we know for sure that the winemakers listed below have suffered directly. If we’ve missed any, or any new information comes to light, we’ll be sure to update the list accordingly.
To buy directly from the winemakers, hit the links below. Note that some wineries supply grapes to larger producers, and therefore don’t have a cellar door to directly purchase wines from.
Donate to the Adelaide Hills Wine Region Fire Appeal
Alternatively, wine delivery service Good Pair Days have put together a ‘Bushfire Support Box’ with three bottles sourced from affected wineries in the Adelaide Hills.