Wildfires damage four SA wine estates

6th January, 2017 by Lauren Eads

A wildfire that raged for four days throughout South Africa’s Western Cape has damaged four wine estates in the Somerset area, including Vergelegen, Waterkloof, Morgenster and Lourensford.

vergelegen-stables-and-herb-garden

South Africa’s Vergelegen Estate

More than 100 firefighters have been battling wildfires throughout the Helderberg Mountain region since 2 January, working through the night to bring the blaze under control. The City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue confirmed on Thursday that the fires had now been contained.

“The situation is still very fluid but the latest reports suggest that the fire is contained and helicopters have been distributing water on affected areas as well as smouldering parts of land,” a spokesperson for Wines of South Africa said in a statement.

Among the worst hit was the Vergelegen Estate, which is about 50km southeast of Cape Town. While the 300-year-old estate remains open for business, around 40% of its land has been damaged by the fire. With the estate covering around 3,000 hectares, it means that around 1,200 hectares have been affected. Of that 3,000 hectares, only 140 hectares is under vine, with current plantings including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Sémillon.

While some vineyards were affected, the majority of damage is believed to have impacted natural vegetation, with no buildings affected.

“There appears to be very little fire damage to that part of the farm,” confirmed Wines of South Africa. “The most damage has occurred to the land that has been set aside for conservation and their environmental project. This land is covered by fynbos and no buildings have been affected by the fire.”

Yesterday, the Vergelegen team tweeted that the fire affecting its estate had been contained and that it was open for business as usual.

The 300-year-old estate was first granted to Willem Adriaan van der Stel, son of the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, in 1700. London-based mining company Anglo American bought it in 1987.

Last year the estate confirmed its ambition to create South Africa’s first 100-point wine with the help of French consultant Michel Rolland, who Vergelegen winemaker André van Rensburg has been working with since 2013.

At Waterkloof just two blocks of vines were reported to have been affected, however the full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed.

Morgenster sustained some damage to parts of its higher-lying olive groves and vineyards on the mountain where the team is working with firefighters to control the situation, Wines of South Africa reported.

Lourensford on the whole had not been significantly affected, largely suffering from smoke, until today when a fire ignited but was quickly dealt with.

“They were fully prepared and had several teams on standby to deal with it”, Wines of South Africa said.

Fires are a frequent occurrence in South Africa, particularly during the hot, windy summer months. Around this time last year firefighters battled a fire on Simonsberg mountain, which had been posing a serious threat to vineyards in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschoek.

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