There is an overwhelming amount of coverage happening right now in Australia about the bushfires and grass fires raging across the landscape. The damage is widespread and horrific for many areas in particular the regions who have sadly lost residents amongst the chaos.
There is no doubt the trauma that accompanies extreme events like this one impacts us all. Our hearts go out to people directly impacted – those who lived the experience, lost their homes, their community or their loved ones. Please stay safe and look after yourself as the fires continue to burn.
For any person living or working in regional Australia side by side with our amazing landscape fire is not unique. In fact the risk is familiar and frequent. The conditions which confront us right now are an example of the idiom the perfect storm. Yet we are not here to discuss our personal views on why it happened. Instead we have been asked about the impact of fires is on the grape growing community.
Unfortunately for the Australian wine industry these fires have caused a devastating impact on the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. It’s estimated one third of the total vine area has been lost including our Australia’s First Families of Wine friends the Henschke’s, who have lost much of their Lenswood vineyard; home to the oldest Pinot Noir grapes in the region. The impact may also be felt around wineries in the vicinity of the southern east coast of Australia.
The impacts of environmental events like this are hard to put a finger on as adaption and reparation lingers around for months, years and decades. We find the best rule of thumb is to explain what happens when we burn natural resources and go from there.
Trees are a natural resource which capture and store carbon dioxide through a process of photosynthesis. When they burn, stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Not only do they release carbon dioxide but also fine particulate and toxic air pollutants.
In the immediate the impact of fire of this magnitude is on the infrastructure in the vineyards. Damaged ripper line and posts need to be replaced. For those who had fires run straight through their vines the issues also include contending with the visible; like dehydration of leaves and burnt bark, to the invisible; tissue so badly heat affected the vine will die.
Those vineyards close by to the fire but not burnt may also experience smoke taint. Smoke taint occurs when the free volatile phenols produced when wood is burnt are absorbed directly by the grape, binding to the grape sugars and creating glycosides that have no smoky aroma. The smoke flavour being released during fermentation as the glycosides break apart creating volatility in the wine.
The pollution generated from the fires is harmful and the damage to the health of the vines, the people and the environment everlasting.
Our main message is not to abandon regional communities post the fires subsiding. Like every natural disaster, whether you believe this is self induced or not, these communities need support from us all to help them survive.
If you would like to donate to the Adelaide Hills regional fire appeal please go here:
Or if you would like more information on which wineries who were directly affected please go here: