Third of Adelaide Hills vineyards lost in wildfires

After news broke of devastating fires sweeping through Australia’s Adelaide Hills, it has now been revealed that has much as a third of the 3,300ha of vines in the region have been destroyed.

Image: Adelaide Hills Wine Region

According to figures cited in The Advertiser and The Guardian, around 1,100ha of vines have burnt in the so-called Cudlee Creek fire, which swept through Adelaide Hills in South Australia on 20 December.

Industry group Adelaide Hills Wine Region states that 25,000ha of land was burnt in the fire, of which 1,100ha were planted with vines.

Jared Stringer, vice-chair of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, told The Guardian that the area destroyed or damaged produces the equivalent of 794,000 cases of wine, worth AU$20 million.

He added: “This is devastating. This is going to have extraordinary effects on the Adelaide Hills region. Where this fire went through it is arguably one of the most agriculturally rich and productive in South Australia. The cost of this is going to be astronomical.

“Heat, radiant heat damage, has wiped out a lot of crops, but we expect vines to recover from that if growers can rebuild their irrigation. If they can do that quickly, we’ll see them back quickly. Where they’ve been burnt quickly, it’s a complete rip out and restart.”

Fires are still burning in the northern part of the region. According to the latest figures from authorities, 86 homes have been destroyed along with 500 sheds and outbuildings. Over 200 volunteers have helped to tackle the blaze, which has a perimeter that stretches for 127km.

So far there has been one confirmed fatality, while three people are in hospital.

The cause of the Cudlee Creek fire has yet to be officially confirmed, but it is thought to have started after a power line fell on some grass.

Along with Golding Wines, which reported on 20 December that it had experienced damage to its vines, a number of other wine producers have since come forward with details of their woes.

These include Anderson Hill, ArtWine, Barristers Block, Bird in Hand, Emmeline Wines, Geoff Weaver, Henschke, New Era Vineyards, Nova Vita Wines, Petaluma, Riposte Wines, Simon Tolley Wines, Tilbrook Estate, Tomich Wines, Turon Wines and Vinteloper.

Among those most severely damaged was the Tilbrook Estate. In several posts on social media, owners James and Annabelle Tilbrook revealed that they had lost their vineyard, winery, stock and outbuildings. 

“We have no business left,” they said. “We have nothing left, except a few cases of museum stock at our home, and literally 48 bottles of current vintage wine that has been auctioned once by Adelaide Farmers’ Market and most has been donated back to be re-auctioned online by Refined Real Estate.

“We are one of many who have lost vineyards, orchards, sheds, and their homes. We were so fortunate not to lose our home. We ask everyone to support the whole community at this time.”

Tilbrook has set up a Go Fund Me page to help the rebuilding efforts. You can find the link here. 

Winemaker and owner of Vinteloper, David Bowley, called 20 December “the worst day in our history”. “I am completely heartbroken,” he added.

While his winery survived, Bowley says his vineyard has been completely wiped out.

Stephen and Prue Henschke of Henschke wines said that damage to their property has been “significant” and will “require a long-term replanting plan”.

The Eden Valley-based producer suffered damage to its Lenswood vineyard in Adelaide Hills, planted with Riesling, Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

“Sadly this includes some of the oldest Pinot Noir in the Adelaide Hills, planted by Tim Knappstein in 1983,” the producer added. Henschke has also lost both of its sheds, machinery and vineyard equipment.

Founder and executive director of Bird in Hand winery, Andrew Nugent, also released a statement via social media. “Whilst we have had limited damage to the vines, we have been extremely lucky,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the hills community who have lost their land, homes and lives. Everyone is safe thanks to the tireless work of the local firefighters and volunteers. We will rebuild and recover with the help of our dedicated staff over the next few days.”

Ways you can help

Wine lovers are being encouraged to buy up remaining stocks of wines from the producers mentioned above. In addition, many Adelaide Hills wineries have organised their own fundraising initiatives.

Industry body Adelaide Hills Wine Region has now set up an official Go Fund Me page to support those wineries affected.

You can find the link here.

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