On Friday about 200 individual bushfires broke out around South Australia, burning 40,000 hectares and leaving Adelaide shrouded in smoke. It’s been just over a month since similar events occurred in New South Wales.
Fires have burnt large tracts of Kangaroo Island, but the Adelaide Hills region, east of the CBD, has been hit hardest. At least 25,000 hectares have been burnt in the area, which is home to dozens of grape, cherry, apple, pear and other fruit growers. The ABC reports that 86 homes have been destroyed in and around Cudlee Creek, and two people have lost their lives.
The damage to the local wine industry is still being assessed. “What we do know is, approximately 1,100 hectares of grapevines are burnt,” Jared Stringer, vice-chair of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, told the ABC. “That makes up approximately one-third of Adelaide Hills production, so for any industry to lose one-third overnight it’s going to be incredibly devastating.”
David Bowley of Vinteloper lost his entire 30-hectare property in the fire, including 12 hectares of vines, crucial infrastructure such as posts and irrigation, and a farmhouse two of his employees were living in. Almost nothing can be salvaged. This, despite a prepared action plan being put into effect days before the fire was close.
“I was sitting in Local Crowd cafe in Colonel Light Gardens with Abdulla, the owner, and my laptop, watching it burn further south, closer and closer, and then it went past [the vineyard]. I thought, ‘Okay, it’s gone past, as long as the wind doesn’t change we’ll be okay.’ But then it got closer and closer and closer. And then around five o’clock that wind changed and it was all over.”
Barristers Block, Beal & Co, Emmeline Wines, Tilbrook Wines, New Era Vineyards, Simon Tolley Wines and Golding Wines also suffered heavy losses, losing between 50 and 100 per cent of vines, plus vital buildings and machinery. Other wineries affected include Anderson Hill, Artwine, Bird in Hand, Geoff Weaver, Henschke, Nova Vita Wines, Petaluma, Tomich Wines and Turon Wines. Many of these operations are small, family run properties, and it will take five years or more to re-establish fruit-bearing vines on them, if at all.
“Every person in the Hills is either under-insured or, in some cases I’ve heard horror stories of people that don’t have any insurance,” Bowley says. “They’ve been wiped out.”
A number of crowd-funding pages have launched to help those in the area. Buying wine and other Adelaide Hills produce (directly, where possible) is another way to show your support. And if you already buy wine through VinoMofo, it’s donating 100 per cent of profits from selected Adelaide Hills wine sales until the end of January. [Jump to the full list of support options below.]
“A lot of people have been jumping on our website and buying wine,” Bowley says. “Every time someone buys a bottle of wine on our website, I get a notification on my phone. I’m carrying my phone 24/7 at the moment. Every notification is like a double espresso shot. It fills me with energy, and a desire to fight and get through this.
“The positive part to this is, our winery at Lenswood was not affected. We’ve got wine from 2019 that’s in barrel that we’ve been getting ready to bottle. That stuff’s just become so valuable to us now. It means we can carry on.
“Vinteloper – me and my business and my family – we have the opportunity, over the long term, to recover from this. If I was just a grower and I didn’t have Vinteloper, that mountain is just so massive to climb.”
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Bird in Hand